How quickly do astronomical events occur

STARRY SKY: Top astronomical events before the end of the year

HAMBURG Astronomy is a fascinating science not least because it can predict events over the years and centuries with great precision. Solar and lunar eclipses, the positions of the planets or the coverings of stars by the moon can be precisely calculated in advance. But sometimes surprising celestial events occur, such as the appearance of bright comets. Such a tailing star, as comets are commonly called because of their appearance, has been visible to the naked eye since the end of October.

It is by no means a newly discovered comet. In the late autumn of 1892, the English astronomer Edwin Holmes found the tail star in the constellation Andromeda, which is now called 17P / Holmes. The comet orbits the sun in just seven years. In 1892 you could see it with your bare eyes, then it was soon lost and was not rediscovered until 1964.

Completely surprisingly, on October 24th of this year, Comet Holmes became so bright within a few hours that it can now be seen again with the naked eye. The outbreak of brightness increased its luminosity by five hundred thousand times - such an event had never before been observed in a comet.

Even at the beginning of December, Comet Holmes can still be seen in the area of ​​the constellations Perseus and Andromeda. In binoculars or telescopes it appears as a round disc with a bright, point-shaped core.

Another top astronomical event awaits us shortly before the end of the year: On December 24th, the earth will overtake its outer neighboring planet Mars on the inner orbit. The shortest distance from the red planet is reached at 88 million kilometers. It can be seen as a brightly shining star in the constellation Gemini and clearly surpasses all other planets and stars in brightness.

On Christmas Eve, Mars rises far in the northeast, stands high in the south at midnight, and sets far in the northwest in the morning. On the night of December 23rd to 24th, the full moon just scraped past Mars, a very noticeable event. In the cities of Hamburg, Hanover, Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig, Mars is even covered by the southern edge of the moon for around half an hour. In the south and west of Germany, Mars almost seems to stick to the edge of the moon, but there is no cover. The closest encounter or covering takes place between 4:40 a.m. and 5:10 a.m. on the morning of Christmas Eve.