December 2022 Stargazing Guide

Posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

Video opens with streaking stars and fades into Orbax on a starry background.

[Orbax}: Greetings junior scientists, scientists and citizens of this weird, wild, wonderful world in which we live. As always I'm your humble science communicator, the great Orbax coming to you from the Department of Physics here at the University of Guelph and I'd like to welcome you to our December 2022 Star Gazing Guide!

Screen fades to black and then Orbax reappears with a diagram of the solar system in the background. Images of constellations and planets appear overlaid in the background as they are mentioned.

[Orbax}: Another year has come and gone but I prefer to think of it as having completed another 940 million kilometer orbit around that 4.5 billion year old star that we call the Sun. This month we spot some Eastern constellations, spy the Planet of Robots, gaze upon two different meteor showers and learn about the winter solstice. All this and more we just take some time... to look up.

Orbax points up and shrinks and fades into the background, the screen fades to black. Orbax reappears on a starry background and images of constellations appear behind him as they are mentioned.

[Orbax}: Our best constellations this month are Perseus, Triangulum and Aries. We know Perseus of course from the Perseids meteor shower in August. Looking towards the Eastern Sky we'll see him fresh from his dust up with Medusa. Cast your gaze just slightly to the right and you should be able to spot Triangulum. One of the smallest constellations, Triangulum is named for the fact that... well... it looks like a triangle. You should be able to easily spot the three bright stars that make up its vertices. And just below Triangulum is the zodiacal constellation Aries the ram. Three nicely visible constellations packed together in the Eastern Sky likely to stay warm on these cold December Nights.

Fades briefly to black and Orbax reappears on a night sky. Images of Jupiter, the moon, Mars (Mars Rovers) and Saturn appear as they are mentioned. 

[Orbax}: Jupiter will appear bright in the sky beside the moon on December 1st swapping to the opposite side on December 29th.

Our big planetary excitement this month is Mars. Hanging out in the Eastern sky with its characteristic red/orange glow, the Planet of Robots will be its brightest in December. This is because it reaches opposition on December 8th. Now we remember the oppositions of both Jupiter and Saturn from earlier this year.

A diagram illustratin opposition appears in the background.

[Orbax}: Opposition occurs when a planet lies directly on the opposite side of the Earth as the sun. What we see when we look at Mars is the reflected light off that planet from the Sun's rays. As well Mars offers us another rare treat. On the evening of December 7th the full moon will occult Mars. What this means is that on December 7th starting at 10:28 PM you'll be able to see Mars disappear behind the moon reappearing on the other side almost an hour later at 11:18 PM.

A world map indicating areas of visibility.

[Orbax}: Lunar occultations are rare and even then they're only visible from a small portion of the Earth's surface because of our vantage point between the Moon and celestial bodies - so you won't want to miss this one!

Fades briefly to black and Orbax reappears on a black ground with an image of the Moon in the background. Images describing the indigenous names for the full moon appears as they are mentioned. 

[Orbax}: Speaking of the Moon our full moon this month occurs on December 7th and is known as the Cold Moon for... frankly... obvious reasons. In Anishinaabemowin the December full moon is named the Little Spirit Moon, Manidoo Giizisoons. The Cree Nation call it the Frost Exploding Trees Moon and the Mi’kmaw of Eastern Canada call the December full moon Kesikewiku’s the winter time moon, or Kjiku’s the Great Moon or the Chief Moon.

Background changes to night sky with meteor showers. Constellations are highlighted as they are mentioned. 

[Orbax}: This month is full of meteors. From December 7th to the 25th we'll be experiencing two different meteor showers. First up is the Geminids. Peaking on the 13th and the 14th, in a dark sky you should be able to see up to 120 multi-colored meteors in an hour emanating for the constellation Gemini high in the Southeast. December 21st and 22nd will be the peak of the Ursids meteor shower. Emanating from Ursa Minor in the north you should be able to see anywhere from five to ten meteors in an hour.

Video diagram illustrating the solstice plays in the background as it is described.

[Orbax}: The first official day of winter is December 21st and is defined by the winter solstice. What's a solstice? Well the Earth has an axis that we say it rotates about. It's like an imaginary line between the North and the South Poles. It takes 24 hours for one full rotation, which is a day. Now this axis isn't perfectly perpendicular to the plane of our orbit around the sun, it's actually tipped at 23.5 degrees. The summer solstice back in June marks the day when the North Pole tips closest to the Sun. The winter solstice on December 21st marks a day when the North Pole is tipped furthest away from the sun and it is then that the Northern Hemisphere will experience the least amount of daylight hours that it will get in a single day all year. As a matter of fact the Arctic Circle experiences no daylight at all! Just 24 hours of darkness! December 21st is often referred to as the shortest day of the year which is kind of confusing since a day only has 24 hours. In reality we just experience the least amount of daylight hours on the solstice. As we head towards the summer the daylight hours will increase in length and our nighttime will get shorter.

Background changes to brought moving colours over a night sky. 

[Orbax}: What a jam-packed sky we've got in December junior scientists. So much to see and so much we can learn. Whatever you may or may not celebrate this time of year I wish you the happiest of days and even happier nights and don't forget to take some time... to look up.
See you next month junior scientists and don't forget to have a science-tastic day!

Image of Dr. Glynis Perrett appears on screen with Royal City Science logo. 

[Orbax]: Special thanks to Royal City Science's own planetary geochemist Dr Glynis Perrett for her help preparing our Star Gazing Guide

Logo of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada appears on screen.

[Orbax]:  and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Credits roll.


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