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December 2010
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  The Oort's cloud is considered to be close to the limit of the Solar System at about 100000 AU (1.5 light-years) from the Sun. It's thought to be the provenience of long  period comets.   


December 1st: Day 335 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1960, the space dogs Pchelka (little bee) and Mushka (little fly) were launched on board Korabl-Sputnik-3, a.k.a. Sputnik 6.

Observations:Mercury is at maximum elongation East (21º), at 15h (UTC). Saturn is 8ºN of the Moon.

December 2nd: Day 336 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1993, the mission STS-61of Space Shuttle Endeavour, made the first Hubble maintenance mission.
Observations:Venus is 6ºN of the Moon.

December 3rd: Day 337 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1958, JPL was trasnfered from the Army's controle to NASA.
In 1971, the sovioet probe Mars 3 becomes the first to successfully land on Mars
In 1973, Pioneer 10 sent to Earth the first images of Jupiter.
In 1974, Pioneer 11's flyby to Jupiter.
In 1999, NASA lost contact with Mars Polar Lander, minutes before its entry in Mars' atmosphere .

Observations: Jupiter is still high in the evening and provides nice observations with our students.

December 4th: Day 338 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1965, Gemini 7 mission was launched. The mission had a goal to test the results of long lasting space flights and make a "rendezvous" with Gemini 6.
In 1978, the american probe Pioneer/Venus becomes the first to orbit Venus.
In 1996, Mars Pathfinder was launched.

Observations:Venus is at its brightest at 10h (UTC).

December 5th: Day 339 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1990, the first image taken with Keck telescope (Eridanus galaxy NGC 1232) was published on the Los Angeles Times.

In 2001, mission Expedition 4, was launched towards the ISS.
Observations: New Moon at 18h (UTC). 

December 6th: Day 340 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1771, John Bevis, dies, four days before completing 76 years old. In 1731, John Bevis saw the Crab nebula which was forgotten since 1064, when a star exploded leaving an incredibly bright area in the sky for almost a month.

Observations: Uranus is stationary at 10h (UTC).

December 7th: Day 341 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1905,  Gerard Kuiper was born.He discovered the moons of Uranus and Neptune, Titan's atmosphere and he studied the origin of the solar system Solar System.

In 1972 Apollo 17 was launched.It was the last mission of Project Apollo. It also marked the last time a human being landed on the Moon. The mission lasted 301 hours, 51 minutes and 59 seconds, and recovered most of the lunar samples that have been brought back to Earth. The mission commander was Eugene A. Cernan. Ronald E. Evans was the pilot of the controle module and Harrison H. Schmitt was the pilot of the lunar module. Schmitt was the only professional geologist profissional to ever go to the Moon.

In 1990, the Galileo aproaches Earth on its way from Venus to Jupiter.
In 1995, the Galileo probe  sucessfully falls into Jupiter's atmosphere and takes direct measurements of a planet's atmosphere for the first time.
Observations: Mercury 1.8ºS of the Moon at 9h (UTC).

December 8th: Day 342 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1990, flyby to Earth of the Galileo Probe.
Observations:The 2010 solstice comes on December 21st, but the earliest sunsets for the northern hemisphere are around this night. It seems paradoxical. Throughout the northern hemisphere the earliest sunsets of the year come about two weeks before the solstice and the shortest day of the year. Why isn’t the earliest sunset on the year’s shortest day? It’s because the clock ticks off exactly 24 hours from one noon to the next. But the actual days – as measured by the spin of the Earth, from what is called one “solar noon” to the next – rarely has exactly 24 hours (try to learn about this researching about the equation of time).

December 9th: Day 343 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1571, Metius was born. He wrote books about astronomy and his brother invented a telescope with 3-4 tines magnification in 1608.
Observations: Try to see Orion late in the evening and the Winter's Milky Way which is glimpsed when we look to the outer side of the galaxy disk near Orion and Taurus.

December 10th: Day 344 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1901 Nobel Prizes were awarded for the first time. Röntgen would win the Physics for the discovery of X-rays.

Observations: Mercury is stationary at 10h (UTC).

December 11th: Day 345 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1863,  Annie Jump Cannon, the pioneer american in spectral classification, was born.
In 1901, Marconi send his first transatlantic signal.
In 1972,  Apollo 17 lands on the Moon.
Observations: Neptune 5ºS of the Moon at 15h (UTC).

December 12th: Day 346 of the gregorian calendar.
Observations: December 12 is one of the peak nights of the 2010 Geminid meteor showers. Monday, December 13 might be even better. The dazzling Geminid meteor shower should intensify from late evening until around 2 a.m. when the radiant point is still high in the sky. The radiant point is near the star Castor in the constellation Gemini.

December 13th: Day 347 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1920, the first measurement of a stellar diameter (Betelgeuse) was done by Francis Pease using an interferometer at Mt. Wilson.
Observations: First Quarter at 14h (UTC). The Moon is at Apogee at 9h (UTC).

December 14th: Day 348 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1546, Tycho Brahe was born. He gave Kepler his first observational job at Uraniborg. Brahe's very precise measurements of Mars' apparent motion would allow Kepler to infere the Laws that have his name.
In 1962, the american probe Mariner 2 reaches Venus and becomes the first successful interplanetary mission.
Observations: Jupiter 2ºS of the Moon at 2h (UTC). Uranus 7ºS of the Moon at 6h (UTC).

December 15th: Day 349 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1911, Roald Amundsen describes on his diary the  strange behaviour of the Sun at the South Pole.

In 1965, Gemini 6 and 7 make their first rendez-vous between two ships orbiting Earth.
In 1970, the soviet probe Venera 7 lands on Venus and becomes the first probe to make transmissions on the planet's surface. This transmission lasted only  23 minutes but it's data transmission showed that pressure at the surface was 90 times bigger than on Earth and that surface temperature was about  475 ºC.
In 1984 the mission  Vega 1  was launched.
Use the night to learn about the Orion constellation.

December 16th: Day 350 of the gregorian calendar.
History: Birthday, in 1857, of Edward Emerson Barnard, the discoverer of the Barnard star.

In 1965 the probe Pioneer 6 was launched into a solar orbita between Earth and Venus.
In 2000, using the science data recovered from the Galileo probe, a 20 de Maio, scientist from JPL anounce evidence of a salty ocean 200km under the surface of 
Ganymede, the biggest moon of the  Solar System.

December 17th: Day 351 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1966, Saturn's moon Epimetheus was discovered by  Richard L. Walker, and afterwards lost for almost  12 years.

December 18th: Day 352 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1966, Saturn's moon Epimetheus was discovered by  Richard L. Walker, and afterwards lost for almost  12 years.

December 19th: Day 353 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1972, the last crewed lunar mission,  Apollo 17, returned back to Earth.


December 20th: Day 354 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1904,  Mt. Wilson's Solar Observatory started to work.

In 1996, Carl Sagan died. He was considered by many the greatest all time Astronomy promoter.
Observations: Mercury in inferior conjunction at 1h (UTC).

December 21st: Day 355 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1968, mission Apollo 8 was launched and  William A. Anders, James A. Lovell Jr. and Frank Borman became the first human beings to not feel Earth's gravity as major gravitational force.

This missions  goal was the close observation of the Moon and of it's "Dark Side".
In 1984 the soviet probe Vega 2 was launched.
Observations: Full Moon at 8h (UTC). Total Eclipse of the Moon at 08h visible at moonset in Western Europe (UTC).

December 22nd: Day 356 of the gregorian calendar.
Observations: Winter Solstice at about 0h (UTC). Palas is in conjunction with the Sun at 17h (UTC).

December 23rd: Day 357 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1672, Giovanni Cassini discovers Saturn's moon Rea.
Orion is reaching its heighest stage. You can see it at East-Southeast after dusk and at iots biggest height at South at about 23h (local time).

December 24th: Day 358 of the gregorian calendar.
Observations: Christmas evening and night mark a special confluence between paganism and christianism. This was a night for celebration because after de bad felling of days getting smaller and smaller, finally it became clear that the days were growing again.

December 25th: Day 359 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1642 (old style calendar), Isaac Newton was born.
Observations: Moon at Perigee at 12h (UTC).

December 26th: Day 360 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1973, o cometa Kohoutek reached its perihelium.
On the same day Soyuz 13 returned to Earth.
In 1974  Salyut 4 was launched.

December 27th: Day 361 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1571, nascia Johannes Kepler was born.

Observations: Pluto is in conjunction with the Sun at 1h (UTC).

December 28th: Day 362 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1882, Arthur Eddington was born. He would confirm Einstein prediction of space-time deformation by mass in the 1919 eclipse observe in Principe Island .

He developed cepheid pulsation model and worked with Einstein on the attempt to unify the fundamental forces.
Observations: Last Quarter at 4h (UTC).

December 29th: Day 363 of the gregorian calendar.
Observations: Saturn 8ºN of the Moon at 3h (UTC).

December 30th: Day 364 of the gregorian calendar.
In 2000, the coupled probes Cassini-Huygens pass by Jupiter.

They pass 9,721,846 km above Jupiter's clouds before suffering a gravitational sligshot towards  Saturn.
Observations: Mercury is stationary at 8h (UTC).

December 31st: Day 365 of the gregorian calendar.
In 1799 an italian monk called Giuseppe Piazzi, discovers Ceres, the first asteroid observed between Mars and Jupiter.

Observations: Venus 7ºN of the Moon at 16h.


After a few months EAAE Monthly is back with news about what has been happening on EAAE.

This month the highlight news go to the 15th EAAE-IAU Summer School  that was organised in Germany under the coordination of .

On the "First Astronomical Observations" section this month we talk about Jupiter.

This month's challenge for "Advanced Astronomical Observations" is the Double Cluster in the Perseus constellation.

On the "Astronomy Software Tools" section we present the Solar Calculator website from NOAA.

We also have an crossword puxzzle and word puzzle in Students Corner and for this month we have selected a beautiful astronomical picture of Comet Hartley as it passed in front of the field of the Double Cluster .

We wish you all clear skies during the next month.

The EAAE Webteam



15th EAAE-IAU Summer School in Heidelberg, Germany
  Between the 18th and the 20th of November, 2010, German SOFIA Institute (DSI) and the House of Astronomy (HdA)organized, in association with the EAAE and IAU, the 15th EAAE-IAU Summer School in Heidelberg, Germany. The language of this Summer School was German. The Summer School chairpersons wer  Cecilia Scorza and Olaf Fischer, both of them members of the EAAE and and the IAU.

A plan of the Haus der Astronomie were the course occured.

The Summer School was designed for school teachers interested in astronomy, in particular in infrared astronomy and spectroscopy, under the theme "Spectroscopy for the school".

General Lectures and Workshops were presented by EAAE, IAU members and teachers with long experience.  Workshops provided very practical and didactic material that teachers  caneasily use and implement in school practice. 

Project Moonwalkers - Total Lunar Eclipse Observations

Project Moonwalkers intends to be a project by which the schools can help students to learn more about the Moon. This month it brings a new  challenge to school teachers and to all educators in general. 

Lunar Eclipse - September 2007

On December 21st there will be a lunar eclipse that will be visible at moonset in most western Europe. This eclipse's maximum will occur at 08h17min (UTC) which means it will be early in the morning.

Students and teachers are invited to share every kind of observations of the Moon that make and we will present your reports  on our webpage with due credit.

You can have your own personal projecs. It might be just to take pictures of the Moon, write poems about the Moon or anything else. Send us your layout to the OBservations Archive ([email protected]) and we will be glad to present it on the projects webpage.

The Moon Eclipse on December 21st.
Credits: Wikipedia

To know what time 08h17 (UTC) is in your country consider that Coordinated Universal Time is more or less the same as GMT (Greenwich Meridian Time).

To make it easier we present bellow information about  local and Coordinated Universal Time for all Europe.

Time zones of Europe:

blue Western European Time (UTC+0)
Western European Summer Time  (UTC+1)
red Central European Time (UTC+1)
Central European Summer Time  (UTC+2)
yellow Eastern European Time  (UTC+2)
Eastern European Summer Time  (UTC+3)
green Moscow Time (UTC+3)
Moscow Summer Time(UTC+4)

Information and image credits: Wikipedia

This project is coordinated by Veselka Radeva, a long time member of the EAAE.

Link: Project Moonwalkers


Last Month's highlights from EAAE News Blog
Orion: THe Winter's dominant constellation.

Orion, often referred to as The Hunter, is a constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. The constellation Orion takes center stage this month and rightly so. With an inordinate number of bright stars, it is one of the most prominent constellations in the sky. Look for Orion in the east-southeastern sky from around 7 to 8 p.m. Its name refers to Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology.

The Orion Constellation.
Credits: Wikipedia


It's brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel are nice examples of a Red Supergiant and a Blue Supergiant that we can give to our students.

The third-brightest star in Orion, Bellatrix, is often overlooked. And yet Bellatrix is such a wonderful star. According to Richard Hinckley Allen’s classic book Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, the Latin name Bellatrix means Female Warrior, which some find odd since the original Arabic title translates as the Conqueror. But we women understand. Bellatrix represents Orion’s left shoulder. Although it appears only as the 22nd brightest star in our heavens, in reality it is a hot, blue giant some 240 light-years away.

Saiph, which is the right knee counterpart to Rigel, the left knee in Orion. The four stars, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix and Saiph form the familiar rectangle of Orion. Saiph is a blazing hot supergiant star 720 light years away.

Bellow the belt (the stars Alnitak, Alnilham and Mintaka) you can find the sword and with the help of binoculars you can also see a small fuzzy patch that is the Orion Nebula.

Orion is very useful as an aid to find other stars. By extending the line of the Belt southeastward you can find the brightest star in the sky after the Sun. This star called SiriusCMa), a.k.a. the 'dog star', is supposed to be the medal of the dog that follows Orion to the hunt; northwestward, you can find AldebaranTau) the red eye of the bull. A line eastward across the two shoulders (Betelgeuse and Bellatrix) indicates the direction of ProcyonCMi). Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procion are the components of an asterism known as the Winter Triangle.  A line from Rigel through Betelgeuse points to Castor and PolluxGem and β Gem). Additionally, Rigel is part of the Winter Circle. Sirius and Procyon, which may be located from Orion by tracing lines, also are points in both the Winter Triangle and the Circle
Guidance by the Orion Constellation.
Credits: Wikipedia

So have fun learning all about this winter constellation.

Clear skies.

M77 - A Seyfert Galaxy

For this month we have selected a galaxy with a central black hole for your observations.

Messier 77 (also known as NGC 1068) is a barred spiral galaxy about 47 million light-years away in the Cetus constellation and has a diameter of 170,000 light-years. Messier 77 is an active galaxy with an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN), which is obscured from view by astronomical dust at visible wavelengths.
It is the brightest known Seyfert galaxy and is a type 2 Seyfert.

Screenshot of M77's position on GoogleSky
Credit & Copyright: Roth Ritter (Dark Atmospheres)
(click on the image to see a bigger version)

If you starhop about three fingerwidths in the Cetus constellation northeast of Mira(alpha Ceti) you will get to Delta Ceti. About one degree to the southeast you will discover M77. At magnitude 10, this bright, compact spiral galaxy can even be spotted with larger binoculars as a faint glow and is unmistakable as a galaxy in smaller telescopes. Its small bright nucleus shows well in mid-sized scopes, while larger ones will resolve out three distinctive spiral arms. If you are using a larger scopeyou can even spot more. Be sure to look for 11th magnitude edge-on companion NGC 1055 about half a degree to the north-northeast, and fainter NGC 1087 and NGC 1090 about a degree to the east-southeast. All are part of a small group of  galaxies associated with distant M77.


M77 with and amateur telescope.
Credit: Hunter Wilson
(click on the image to see a bigger version)

The .


If you have a teslescope have fun making some pictures of the clusters.



Stig's  Sky Calendar


This month we present you an online sky callendar that can be very useful for preparing observations and finding ephemerids.

Stig's Sky Calendar is a program that opens with a bar-chart representation of the days of the month from top to bottom, with a graphic of each day from day to night to day. As you pass the mouse around the screen, events like the passage of the moon, planets, etc. track along the day bar and up and down the month graph. Includes a planet finder window that also shows a moving graphic of the planets visible from where the mouse in positioned.

A screenshot of Stig's Sky Calendar's website.

Though the software isn't visual so attractive as some astronomical sofware like Stellarium, for instance, it is nonetheless a powerful tool for nightsky observation decisions and to have an immediate idea about the visibility of planets.

Have a try.

Link to the program's site:
Stig's Sky Calendar




Solar System Sudoku is an EAAE transformation of the famous Japanese Sudoku. You have to put on each the nine symbols on each row, each column and each of the nine small nine spaces squares. This means each one of the nine symbols has to appear nine times on the Sudoku puzzle.

Instead of numbers, we use symbols of the nine major celestial objects of the solar system (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune).



This month's challenge is the puzzle we present bellow.



To confirm and print the solution click here.





Figure out what words the clues represent. Then find the words in the grid. Words can go horizontally, vertically and diagonally in all eight directions. Two letter words might have more than one option but the valid option doesn't overlap any other selected word.





Telescope (twice)

To confirm the solution click here.

  The Flame Nebula. Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona  
  (click on the image to see a bigger version)  

Also known as NGC 2024, the Flame Nebula has a beautifull reddish colour due to the glow of  hydrogen atoms at the edge of the giant  Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years away. The hydrogen atoms have been ionized, or stripped of their electrons, and glow as the atoms and electrons recombine. The ionization of the hydrogen atoms is due to Alnitak Alnitak (ζ Ori), the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion, that shines energetic ultraviolet light into the Flame and this knocks electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas, and also  to  a cluster of hot, young stars, that the central dark lane of absorbing interstellar dust  hides from optical telescopes. This cluster of hot, young stars, can be seen at infrared wavelengths through the obscuring dust.

European Association for Astronomy Education