Happy solstice and happy birthdays

Happy solstice! Winter arrives officially in the Northern Hemisphere at 8:48 p.m. Pacific Standard Time today.

AlicesAstroInfo-145Celebrate the solstice a little early this evening and watch the final sunset of autumn with Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info at the aptly named Solstice Park in West Seattle. The festivities get under way at about 3:45 p.m. on Monday, December 21. The official time for sunset today in Seattle is about 4:20 p.m., but Enevoldsen, who has done 26 of these seasonal sunset watches, notes that it’s usually about 10 minutes earlier than listed for this site because of the altitude of the horizon.

Enevoldsen is a NASA Solar System Ambassador and gives a good talk about how the solstice works and other celestial topics. Warning: heavy rain will scrub the event.

Ursid meteor shower

Speaking of heavy rain, the forecast is not looking promising for viewing of the annual Ursid meteor shower, which will peak on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 22-23, with the best viewing expected before dawn on Wednesday. The shower is so named because its radiant appears around the bowl of the Litter Dipper–Ursa Minor.

An article from EarthSky explains all you need to know about viewing the Ursids. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope and The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine suggest other observing highlights for the week, including the chance to see comet Catalina in the early morning hours.

December birthdays

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Newton

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Kepler

We like to celebrate birthdays at this time of year, and there are two big ones in astronomy this week. We remember Isaac Newton, who was born December 25, 1642, and Johannes Kepler, born December 27, 1571. What would we know about planetary motion without these two?

Keep current on area astronomy events by bookmarking the Seattle Astronomy calendar.

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