Skywatch: Say "Hello" to a new season this week


When the clouds break this week a dark moon will make sky watching that much easier. The New Moon officially arrives on Monday morning at 1:30 a.m.

An interesting thing about this lunar month (the “time between successive new moons”) is that it’s the longest of the 21st century. This is happening because of the way the moon orbits the Earth, the timing of the next two New Moons and the fact that Earth will be at its closest point to the sun in early January.

All this adds up to a 29 day 19 hour and 47-minute lunar month which is a little more than seven hours longer than the average.

We also bid farewell to the fall season this week. The winter solstice occurs at 11:28 a.m. on Thursday. That means you can expect the shortest day and longest night (in terms of daylight hours) this week.

The winter solstice happens when the sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. So as we march into the cold of winter our neighbors south of the equator will be enjoying their summer.

Look for the Ursid meteor shower this week as well. This minor shower peaks near the solstice every year. Caused by debris from comet 8P/Tuttle this shower generally produces about 5-10 meteors per hour at its peak.

In some years the shower can boast up to 100 meteors per hour, though. This shower is expected to peak early Friday or Saturday morning.

If you want to find it the radiant is in the north and NE shortly after midnight both nights near the Big and Little Dippers.

As always, find a dark spot far away from the city to have the best chance of seeing some of the show. Also, because of the timing, make sure you dress warmly. Happy hunting!