Astronomy Calendar

This calendar of celestial events is frequently updated.
Check out what's happening in the sky this winter!

Full moon over the museum building on the UAF campus.

UAF photo by Todd Paris, 2014.

  • December 21: December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 1:02 AM Alaska time. The South Pole of the Earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • December 21: Rare Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will take place on December 21. This rare conjunction of these two planets is known as a great conjunction. The last great conjunction occurred in the year 2000. The two bright planets will appear only 7 arc minutes of each other in the night sky. They will be so close that they will appear to make a bright double planet. Look to the west just after sunset for this impressive and rare planetary pair.
  • December 21-22: Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. The first quarter moon should set just after midnight leaving dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • December 29: Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 6:30 pm Alaska time. This full moon was known by some Native American tribes as the Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule.
  • January 2-3: Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 2nd and morning of the 3rd. The waning gibbous moon will block out most of the faintest meteors this year. But if you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • January 12: New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 8:02 pm Alaska time. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • January 24: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 18.6 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
  • January 28: Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 10:18 am Alaska time. This full moon was known by some Native American tribes as the Wolf Moon because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps. This moon has also been know as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.
  • February 11: New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 10:08 am Alaska time. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • February 26: Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 11:19 pm Alaska time. This full moon was known by some Native American tribes as the Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Hunger Moon, since the harsh weather made hunting difficult.
 
More astronomy viewing resources:

Green aurora lights in the night sky.UAF photo by Todd Paris, 2015.


NASA Space Science Education Consortium logo.

This project was funded under NASA cooperative agreement NNX16AL65A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
All photos from NASA unless otherwise credited.