The Skies Above Bribie

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The December Sky on Bribie, brings us the very familiar star pattern of Orion, The Great Hunter, rising in the east. This constellation contains the bright Red Giant Star, Betelguese. A star fast approaching the end of its life and recently has been the source of curiosity by astronomers all over the world, as it was unexpectedly growing dimmer. It has regained its brightness now, but this occurrence was totally unexpected and still open to theories as to why this star, normally our 10th brightest star, went through this event. The dagger of the Orion contains the well-known Orion Nebula, easily seen with binoculars and photographed beautifully here by reader and local resident, Katherine Miller. A huge cloud of dust and gas with amazing colours.

Across from Orion is the brightest star in our night sky. Sirius, a white star, bright because of it being only 8 light-years away from earth. It is actually moving slowly towards our solar system and over the next 60,000 years will grow brighter. North of Orion, we can see the constellation of Taurus, characterised by a V shape of stars, headed by the bright orange supergiant, Alderbaran.

Our object of the month is a beautiful open cluster of stars near Alderbaran, called The Seven Sisters, and inspiration for the Subaru car logo. Easily visible to the naked eye and photographed exceptionally well by local Katherine Miller. Her photograph clearly shows blue nebulosity of stars being born in the cluster. Also in Taurus is the famous Crab Nebula, remnants of a star exploding on 4th July 1054. The exploding star or Supernova was visible in daylight for almost a month. Now however it is extremely difficult to see without a large telescope, which was used in my photograph of the object.

The Geminids Meteor shower should put a display of shooting stars, peaking on December 13th and 14th, with the possibility of up to 50 shooting stars, or meteors, an hour, always a source of wonder watching natures display.

No milky way is visible through December, but Mars dominates as the bright red object high in the sky, however on December 21st Jupiter and Saturn, to the west, will be in conjunction and almost appear as one. Start watching them now to see them get closer and closer. The last time they were this close was in 1623. Quite an amazing sight.

On December 27th the moon will occult, or pass in front of, a reasonably bright star. With this event just prior to the full moon, binoculars or a small telescope will be required. These events are nature’s most instantaneous events as the moon has no atmosphere and a star has no size as seen from earth, so the star will instantly disappear.

Always ready to answer questions by email bribie_astronomer@proton mail. com I would like to take this opportunity to wish all on Bribie a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Keep looking to the heavens and learning, but above all stay safe.