Comet Wirtanen Brightens Before the Winter Solstice, Telescope Shopping Tips, the Moon Covers a Star, and the Full Moon Before Yule Spoils the Ursids!

(Above: This image of Comet 46P/Wirtanen was captured by talented Canadian astrophotographer Alan Dyer on December 15, 2018. More of his amazing sky work is here.)
(Above: At the Winter Solstice, the Earth’s axis of rotation tips away from the sun, putting the noonday sun lowest in the southern sky for the year.)
(Above: A Dobsonian-style telescope offers the ideal mix of ease of use, stability, and light-gathering for seeing the moon, planets, and deep sky objects.)
(Above: The path of Comet 46P/Wirtanen through the sky for the next week, starting below the bright Pleiades Cluster at top right. Yellow dots represent 6-hour intervals.)
(Above: The radiant for the Ursids meteor shower is in the northern sky near the star Kochab in Ursa Minor, which is also known as the Little Dipper.)
(Above: Between 5:35 pm and 6:47 pm Eastern time in the southeastern sky on Tuesday evening, December 18, the moon will occult the medium-bright star Xi Ceti (also known as Al Kaff al Hidhmah II). Binoculars or a telescope will aid in seeing the event, which is shown here towards the end, at 6:47 pm EST.)
(Above: The eastern pre-dawn sky hosts the planets Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn, as shown here at 7 am local time on December 17. On the weekend of December 22–23, Jupiter and Venus will be very close together.)
(Above: The position of distant blue Neptune, with respect to Mars this week.)

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