Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Monday, December 2, 2013

December Stargazing

The days get short, the nights get long, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.  

SkyTips: December 2013

Thanksgiving Comet
Comet ISON Fizzles?
Comet ISON appears to have lost some of its sizzle as it plunged near the Sun on Thanksgiving Day. Scientists say it's too early to know whether the comet will still stage a good showing in the morning skies of early December. Get the latest comet update.

Stargazing Summary

stargazing iconEach of the five planets visible to the unaided eye puts in an appearance this month. Mercury quickly vanishes after putting in a brief showing quite low in the dawn sky as December begins, but the other four are in view for at least a couple of hours per night. The constellations of winter begin to take center stage, with Orion in the east in early evening, and Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, climbing skyward by mid-evening.

More stargazing information »

Radio Program Highlights

If you want to start hearing the StarDate program in your area, you can request a station to carry our program by emailing the request to

December 2-8: Fixing Hubble. Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most productive scientific instruments in history. But it took a pair of spectacles and a house call by a team of astronauts to make it so. Join us for a house call to Hubble and much more.

December 9-15: A Pioneer. Annie Jump Cannon spent most of her career poring over thousands of photographic plates. And from that tedious work, she devised a new way to classify the stars — one that's still in use today. Join us for this and more.

December 16-22: Star Songs. Astronomy is a visual science — astronomers study the stars by looking at them. But one team has found a way to listen to the stars — and to convert what they hear to music. Join us for star songs and much more.

December 23-29: Moon Meanderings. The Moon passes a passel of bright stars and planets this week, including Mars and the leading light of Virgo. Join us for these and other beautiful encounters in the night sky, plus a tale of an underperforming comet.

December 30-31: Melting Glass. The first telescope at McDonald Observatory began to take shape in December of 1933, and we'll tell you how. And we'll also tell you how the "evening star" is getting ready to move to morning skies. Join us for this and more.

December program schedule »

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StarDate Magazine's 2014 Sky Almanac

Our next issue is the Sky Almanac 2014. We'll bring you skywatching tips and charts for every month of the year, along with anniversaries in astronomy and space, plus events around the country. The issue will commemorate McDonald Observatory's 75th anniversary. Single issue copies for $7 will go on sale in about 7-10 days.

Subscribe today »

News From the Observatory

75th Anniversary Kick-off Available to Watch Online
Dr. Frank Bash, McDonald director 1989-2003, kicked off our 75th anniversary speakers series with a public talk on "The Frontier and McDonald Observatory" in Austin October 19. In it, Bash describes the founding of McDonald on the frontier, and gives numerous examples of how the observatory has explored scientific frontiers over the decades. This talk, along with several other videos varying in length from five minutes to an hour, is available in our Anniversary Multimedia Gallery.

Chow Telescope Odyssey, Dedication Available to Watch Online
The Alan Y. Chow Telescope was dedicated this summer at our Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. Now two videos about the 1-meter automated telescope are available to watch. A brief, six-minute video describes the telescope's long odyssey from its home in Chicago to a retrofit in California to its current home at McDonald. A longer video shows the dedication ceremony held at McDonald.

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