Eye on the sky as summer approaches

By Brian Hurren

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PHOTO/SUPPLIED
PHOTO/SUPPLIED

With the long hot days upon us we welcome the start of summer. Officially beginning with the first day of December the season doesn't start, astronomically at least, until the day of the summer solstice on December 22.

This is the time of the solar southern standstill when the sun has come as far south as it is going to and then stops, turns, and begins its long trek back north into the gloomy cold days of winter. December 22 is also the longest day and shortest night of the year.

As for phases of the moon: First Quarter is on the 7th. Full Moon is on the 14th. Last Quarter is on the 21st. And New Moon is on the 29th. This month's moon is called the Strawberry Moon, Honey Moon or Rose Moon.

Jupiter reigns supreme in the pre-dawn sky. Venus is still riding high in the west setting well after sunset. Keen-eyed observers can see the phases of Venus changing over the months.

With the aid of a small pair of binoculars and a white piece of cardboard an image of Venus can be viewed by projecting it on to the cardboard.

Through this, it is possible to see the phases change.

Mars and Saturn also put on a good display in the evening sky throughout the month.

Look out for the Geminids meteor shower, peaking on December 14. This shower is unusual as it is associated with an asteroid rather than a comet. It is one of the more spectacular shows of the year, typically producing up to 120 meteors per hour. Best time to see it is in the early morning. Look towards the summer constellation Orion, beside this you will find Gemini. This is where the shower will appear to come from.

For more information contact the Rotorua Astronomical Society. You can find them on Facebook.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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