Jupiter and Saturn appear above the southwestern horizon at dusk – they continue to move away from each other with each night. As the Earth’s orbit brings the Sun between us and the pair of planets, they set shortly after sunset, and will not be visible after the first week of 2021.
Jupiter and Saturn and appear above the southwestern horizon at dusk. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.
Mars and Uranus appear above the southeastern horizon at dusk – they appear above western horizon around midnight; Mars sets in the west shortly before 2:00 AM.
Mars appears above the western horizon before midnight. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.
Venus appears in the southeastern predawn sky all week – appearing much lower than it has been in recent weeks.
Venus appears in the southeastern predawn sky. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.
The constellation Orion appears in the southeastern sky at 8:00 PM – the Moon appears in the constellation Gemini from Dec. 29-30th.
The Moon appears in the constellation Gemini from Dec. 29-30. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.
The constellations Ursa Major and Leo appear in the east-northeastern sky at 1:00 AM – the Moon appears in Leo from Jan 2-4th.
The constellations Ursa Major and Leo appear in the east-northeastern sky after midnight. Credit: Bob Trembley / Stellarium.
The full Moon occurs on Dec, 30th – rising at sunset, visible high in the sky around midnight, and visible all night; I saw this through my skylight as I was making my coffee this morning.
After Dec. 29th, the Moon will be a waning gibbous – rising after sunset, visible high in the sky after midnight, and visible to the southwest after sunrise.
The Moon from 2020-12-29 – 2021-01-04. Visualizations by Ernie Wright / NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.
If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2020 page – it will show you what the Moon looks like right now. If you click the image on that page, you will download a high-rez TIF image annotated with the names of prominent features – helpful for logging your observations!
A Convert-O-Tron 250 ISRU from KSP.
Let me just mention that In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) components have been part of Kerbal Space Program for years, and I have completed missions that require locating resources on the Moon’s surface using orbital reconnaissance, landing mining equipment on the Moon, mining resources, and returning those resources to lunar orbit for processing at a space station. Yea… there’s a reason I like KSP…
The Sun has an interesting face with 2 spots – crack out your telescopes with solar filters! Neither sunspot poses a threat for strong flares.
The Sun on Dec. 29th – both of the sunspots have stable magnetic fields that pose little threat for strong flares. Credit: SDO/HMI/spaceweather.com
The face of the Sun where the sunspots are show a lot coronal activity – there appears to be another region of coronal activity rotating into view.
The northern coronal hole appears to have opened a bit; the southern coronal hole remains small. There are a couple small coronal holes on either side of the equator.
The Sun seen in 193 angstroms (extreme ultraviolet) December 28, 2020:
Several prominences across the Sun’s limb; the two sunspot regions look like angry scars in 304 A – AR2796 (leftmost of the 2 sunspots) is spitting a lot of low-level flares.
The Sun seen in 304 angstroms (extreme ultraviolet) December 28, 2020:
Videos courtesy of NASA/SDO
and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams.
You can view the Sun in near real-time, in multiple frequencies here: SDO-The Sun Now.
You can create your own time-lapse movies of the Sun here: AIA/HMI Browse Data.
You can browse all
the SDO images of the Sun from 2010 to the present here: Browse SDO archive
Solar Activity on Facebook – Run by Volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Pamela Shivak
SOLARACTIVITY PICTURE OF THE DAY for Tuesday, December 29th, 2020 goes out to Randy Shivak for this incredible Hi-Resolution shot of a solar prominence. Randy commented: “Images captured today 12/28/2020 using the 152mm F8 refractor with the Daystar .5 angstrom PE filter, Baader D-ERF, Baader TZ3 and ZWO 174MM camera.”
Solar wind speed is 470.9 km/sec, with a density of 9.0 protons/cm3 at 1120 UT.
Near real-time animation of the corona and solar wind from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):
Animated LASCO C2 Coronograph showing the solar corona above the Sun’s limb (the white circle). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech-SOHO
Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. Red highlighted entries are asteroids that either pass very close, or very large with high relative velocities to the Earth. Table from SpaceWeather.com
On December 28, 2020, the NASA All Sky Fireball Network reported 15 fireballs!
(13 sporadics, 1 Leonis Minorid, 1 Quadrantid)
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). Credit: SpaceWeather.com
If you see a bright meteor or a fireball, please REPORT IT to the American Meteor Society and the International Meteor Organization!
Position of the planets and several spacecraft in the inner solar system:
Position of the planets and a couple spacecraft in the inner solar system, 2020-12-29. Credit: Bob Trembley / NASA Eyes on the Solar System.
Position of the planets in the middle solar system – the orbit of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is highlighted.
Position of the planets in the middle solar system, 2020-12-29. Credit: Bob Trembley / NASA Eyes on the Solar System.
Position of the planets, dwarf planets and some transneptunian objects in the outer solar system – the orbit of bilobed TNO Arrokoth is highlighted.
Position of the planets and some transneptunian objects in the outer solar system, 2020-12-29. Credit: Bob Trembley / NASA Eyes on the Solar System.
Solar System News
Mars Persevere Rover:
International Space Station:
HiRISE – on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:
Hubble Space Telescope #Hubble30
Juno at Jupiter:
NISAR Mission (Synthetic Aperture Radar) #NISAR
See a list of current NASA missions here: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/?type=current
ex·o·plan·et /ˈeksōˌplanət/, noun: a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun.
Data from the NASA Exoplanet Archive
* Confirmed Planets Discovered by TESS refers to the number planets that have been published in the refereed astronomical literature.
* TESS Project Candidates refers to the total number of transit-like events that appear to be astrophysical in origin, including false positives as identified by the TESS Project.
* TESS Project Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed refers to the number of TESS Project Candidates that have not yet been dispositioned as a Confirmed Planet or False Positive.
Exoplanet News – YOU Can Help Find Exoplanets!
Wales – Almost a Dark Sky Nation!
Hubble: Beautiful Universe
This Hubble image captures Caldwell 78 (or NGC 6541), a globular star cluster roughly 22,000 light-years from Earth. The cluster is bright enough that backyard stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere can easily spot it with binoculars.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)
ET Phone Home? Wouldn’t THAT be Interesting?
What I was listening to when I was editing this:
Stay safe, be well, and look up!
Software Apps used for this post:
NASA Eyes on the Solar System: an immersive 3D solar system and space mission simulator – free for the PC /MAC. I maintain the unofficial NASA Eyes Facebook page.
Universe Sandbox: a space simulator that merges real-time gravity, climate, collision, and material interactions to reveal the beauty of our universe and the fragility of our planet. Includes VR support.
SpaceEngine: a free 3D Universe Simulator for Windows. Steam version with VR support available.
Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. It’s a great tool for planning observing sessions. A web-based version of Stellarium is also available.
NOTE: An update to Stellarium has been released!
Section header image credits:
The Sky – Stellarium / Bob Trembley
Observing Target – Turn Left at Orion / M. Skirvin
The Moon – NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Sun – NASA/JPL-Caltech
Asteroids – NASA/JPL-Caltech
Fireballs – Credited to YouTube
Comets – Comet P/Halley, March 8, 1986, W. Liller
The Solar System – NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley
Spacecraft News – NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley
Exoplanets – Space Engine / Bob Trembley
Light Pollution – NASA’s Black Marble
The Universe – Universe Today