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OUTSIDE THIS WORLD | Skywatching station – a preview of what to look for in the night sky for the next season

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist / writer of science

Thursday, November 29, 2018, from 8:21 a.m. – As the days become colder, and overnight, the winter is over! These are the best time observation events for the 2018-2019 Winter, and some extras to keep an eye out, too.

Winter may not be the easiest time of the year to stargaze, but it can be the most rewarding.

Clear winter nights present the best visualization, compared to other stations, since air overload tends to be drier and more stable. The stars, the planets and the Moon seem cleaner and cleaner, since their light faces less turbulence in the air before reaching us. Dry air also reflects less the light pollution produced by our urban centers, so our sky is usually darker, which allows us to see more stars and more weaker meteors during annual meteors' showers.

So, stay hot when you get to the sky during the next season and you do not need these great events.


• December 22 – Longest full moon of 2018

• January 3 – Land in perihelion

3-4 of January – Squares of quadrangular meteor shower

January 20-21 – Super Blood Wolf Moon Total Lunar Eclipse

• February 21 – Zodiacal light at night, the western sky for two weeks

• March 20: equinox

• Bonus – Conjunctions and alignments (January 22 – February 27)


This year, December Full Moon Cold falls on the night of the 22nd, only one night after the longest night of the year.

On that night, the moon will rise at 5 in the morning. local time, and will be set at 8:32 a.m. on the morning of day 23, for a full moon reading time of 15 hours and 32 minutes.

That is the longest Full Moon of the whole year!

We have not seen a full moon since December 2010 (when it was in the sky for 15 hours and 54 minutes on day 20-21).


This event is not so much to see. Instead, it is something just to experience, since the Earth goes through what is known perihelion.

When the Earth travels through the Sun, it does not trace a perfect circle. Really follows an elliptical path.

This means that even when we normally use an average distance of the Sun of 1 "astronomical unit" or 1 "AU", equal to 150 million km, in some points in its orbit, the Earth is closer to the Sun and at other points, it is farther away

This schematic of the Earth's orbit exaggerates the elliptical shape of the orbit and the relative sizes of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. Credit: NASA

Every year, on or near January 3, the Earth reaches its closest point to the Sun. This is called perihelion.

If you want to dial the exact moment, pause for a brief break in your night, exactly at 05:20 UTC, on January 3.

• 1:50 a.m. January 3 Newfoundland Standard Time

• 1:20 a.m. January 3 Atlantic Standard Time

• 12:20 a.m. in January 3 Eastern Standard Time

• 11:20 p.m. January 2 central standard hour

• 10:20 p.m. January 2 Standard mountain time

• 9:20 p.m. January 2 Pacific Standard Time

Will you feel something when it happens? Not specifically the astronomical event, but it is still very cool to mark the moment it happens.


The best of the winter weather showers occurs after new years. the quadrantids.

The location of the Radiant Quadrantid, on the night of January 3 to 4, 2019. Credit: Stellarium / Scott Sutherland

Unlike the Quadrantida shower of 2018, which was mostly washed by a very bright and almost Full Moon, this year's meteor shower is happening while the Moon is only a thin thickness of a half moon that slides beyond the horizon very shortly after sunset.

This means that we will have a good dark sky all night and observers have the best chance of catching even the weakest of meteorites that flow through the sky during the peak of January 3-4 of the shower.

Quadrantids, which originate from an asteroid known as 2003 EH1 (probably an extinct comet), is just one of two known meteor shower that originates from a rocky body (the December Gemini is the other). Both showers of meteors have shown excellent, too, with Quadrantids that provide an average of 120 meteors per hour (although the real rate may vary between 60 and about 200).


The first thing you should consider when you plan to see a meteor shower is to keep track of time.

Be sure to check The Weather Network on TV, on our website or in our application, just to make sure you have the most up-to-date forecast.

Next, you need to get away from the city lights and, the farther you can get, the better.

See below: What light pollution is doing with the views of the Milky Way city

For most regions in Canada, getting out of light pollution is simply a matter of driving outside of your city, city or town. Some areas, however, as in the southwest and central Ontario, and along the St Lawrence river, the concentration of light pollution is very high. Being away from outside a city to escape its light pollution, unfortunately, tends to put it under the light pollution dome of the next city. In these areas, there is a dark sky in the sky, but Skywatcher's best bet for the dark sky usually goes north.

Once it has proven that it will have clear skies and fled from the contamination of urban light, it will stop in some safe and dark place (provincial parks, even if it is confined to the parking lot, they are usually an excellent location).

For a better view, in order to see most of the possible meteors, it is essential that you say the time to adapt it to the dark. Between 30-45 minutes is great.

During that time, avoid all light sources of light, including the mobile phone screen. If you need to use your cell phone, consider lowering the amount of blue light that turns off the screen (usually in the phone screen settings) and reduce its brightness. In addition, there are applications that can put your phone in "night mode", which changes the screen to the red one. Once this is done, checking the phone while watching the sky will not have as much impact on your night vision.

Note: Although the graphs presented here point to the radiation weather situation & # 39; – the point in the sky where meteors appear – meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.

Therefore, the best way to see a meteor shower is lean back or lie, so you can look up, so you can see the whole sky as possible, at once. Bring a blanket to spread on the floor, or a garden chair to sit down, or even lean back against your car.

Joining some family and friends is also great, since it is better to share these experiences with others.


Almost a year after the "Super Blue Moon Total Eclipse lunar" of 2018, we will see another, although this will not be "blue."

On the night of January 21-22, Moon Moon will pass through the northern half of the Earth's shadow, producing a Total Lunar Eclipse. The chart above shows the way of the Moon through the shadows and shadows of the Earth and details the time of the eclipse for various areas of time throughout Canada.

For an additional bonus, since the Moon will be very close to the perimeter – its nearest distance to the Earth – it will be a "Super Blood Wolf Moon "Total lunar eclipse.

I hope we have clear sky for this event, since we will not have another Total Lunar Eclipse so focused on North America (so that everyone in Canada has the opportunity to see it), until May 2022!


Light and zodiac light on the Chair. Credit: ESO

This winter, night sky observers will have the opportunity to see the immense cloud of interplanetary dust that surrounds the Sun, which manifests itself in our night sky as a phenomenon known as "Zodiacal Light."

In the 2019 Observer Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Dr. Roy Bishop, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Acadia, wrote:

Zodiacal light appears as a huge, softly radiant white pyramid with its base near the horizon, and its axis centered on the zodiac (or rather, the ecliptic). In its brightest parts, it exceeds the luminance of the central Milky Way.

According to Dr. Bishop, the event, although this phenomenon may be quite bright, can easily be spoiled by the light of the moon, the mist or the light pollution. In addition, since it is better seen just after twilight, the inexperienced sometimes confuses at twilight, and so loses.

On clear nights and under the dark skies, look at the western horizon, in the half hour after the twilight disappeared, from February 21 to March 7.


While the Earth travels in its orbit, the inclination of the planet causes that the angle of the Sun changes in our sky.

From the end of September to the end of March, the North Pole is angled from the Sun, so that the Sun is placed more directly on the southern hemisphere and the Sun reaches its lowest point in the northern sky (and the highest in the sky south) on or around December 22.

From the end of March until the end of September, on the contrary, the South Pole is angled from the Sun, so that the Sun is placed more directly on the northern hemisphere, reaching its highest point in the northern sky (and lower than the sky at south) about around June 22.

In both places between these periods – specifically from March 20 and September 22 – it seems as if the Sun crossed the equator. In March it crosses from south to north and in September it crosses from north to south.

The exact moment that the Sun seems to be about the equatorIn any case, it is known as one Equinox.

In what hemisphere you are, at that time, determine exactly the type of equinox you are experiencing. In March, the northern hemisphere marks the vernal equinox, while the southern hemisphere marks the autumnal equinox. In September, it is the opposite.

The next equinox, which marks the beginning of spring in the north and autumn in the south, occurs exactly at 5:58 a.m. EDT, March 20.


Look at a clear sky most of the night of the year and it is very likely that you discover the Moon, along with one or more planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn being the most notable), at least at some point during the night.

On some nights of the year, these objects appear especially close (at least from the point of view here on Earth), that astronomers refer to it as a "conjunction", while on other nights, several of these bright objects can align the sky in a"alignment& # 39;

Here are the notable conjunctions and alignments for Winter 2019

These 2019 winter junctions and alignments are all at dawn, before dawn. Credit: Stellarium / Scott Sutherland

• January 22 and 23 – Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions

• January 31 – Venus-Moon-Jupiter Lineup

• February 18: conjunction of Venus-Saturn, next to Jupiter

• February 27: conjunction of Jupiter-Moon, with Venus and Saturn nearby

• February 28 – Venus-Saturn-Moon-Jupiter lineup

What happens during the rest of the year? There is a lot to happen, but the great events that appear are the total solar eclipse of the southern hemisphere of July and the November transit of Mercury in front of the Sun.

Sources: IMO | Royal Astronomical Society of Canada


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