The Seasonal Almanac shares nature and astronomical events for December 1999 and January 2000.
Seasonal Almanac for December 1999 and January 2000
1 In 1831 record cold closed the Erie Canal for the entire month of December.
2 Mercury – 20.4° – is at its greatest elongation (maximum angular separation) from the sun; Pluto at conjunction with the sun (and therefore unviewable)l; first heart transplant performed this day in 1967; Napoleon was crowned emperor by the Pope this day in 1804; Cortez died this day in 1547.
4 First day of Hanukkah.
7 NEW MOON, 5:32 P.M . EST; Pearl Harbor attacked in 1941; launch of Apollo I7, last manned spacecraft to visit moon, on this day in 1972.
8 Moon farthest for year, 6 A.M . EST; earliest sunset (4:35 P.M .) for people at 40°N latitude.
9 First day of Ramadan, Muslim month of fasting. John Milton born this day in 1608.
11 First flight of the Concorde aircraft in 1967; Venus becomes farther than one astronomical unit (average distance between Earth and sun) away from Earth, but still shines very brightly in southeast around dawn.
12 At dusk, moon forms small triangle with Mars and Uranus (but Uranus requires binoculars or telescope to see under these circumstances).
13 Geminid meteors peak tonight, are especially numerous (up to one per minute in clear country skies) after to moonset and through the middle of the night; St. Lucy’s Day (shortest day of the year, celebrated with festivals of light).
14 Mars-Uranus conjunction (needs telescope and detailed star chart) in southwest after dusk.
15 FIRST QUARTER MOON, 7:50 P.M. EST; Bill of Rights Day; Halcyon Days begin (these were reputedly peaceful days when the legendary bird called the halcyon could nest on the calm waters of the Mediterranean).
17 Wright brothers first flight in 1903.
18 Sun leaves constellation Ophiuchus (the serpent holder) and enters Sagittarius.
19 Ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia begins.
21 The U.S. launches Apollo 8, first manned spacecraft to leave the vicinity of Earth and orbit the moon, in 1968.
22 Winter solstice, 2:44 A.M. EST; moon closest of year, 6 A.M. EST; full moon,12:31 P.M. EST.
24 Christmas Eve.
25 Christmas; winter solstice in the northern hemisphere of Mars; birth date of Sir Isaac Newton (1642).
26 Boxing Day in Canada and U.K.
28 Holy Innocents Day.
29 LAST QUARTER MOON, 9:04 A.M. EST; end of the Halcyon Days.
30 On this day in 1933, the low was minus 50°F in Bloomfield, Vermont; Rudyard Killing born (1865).
31 New Year’s Eve, and the “unofficial” last day of the decade, century and Christian millennium; Venus still rises about three hours before the sun; the brightest star, Sirius, is at its highest in the south at midnight – Happy New Year!
1 New Year’s Day; start of Japanese year 2660.
2 Moon above Venus in southeast at dawn; launch of USSR’s Luna 1 this day in 1959 – it missed the moon and became the first artificial object to enter an orbit around the sun.
4 Saturn’s rings now at a very slight minimum in their tilt toward Earth – but still a fine sight in telescopes.
5 Latest sunrise (7:22 A.M. ) at 40°N latitude; Twelfth Night
6 NEW MOON, 1:14 P.M. EST; Epiphany and Adoration of the Magi; Eastern Orthodox Christmas; Benjamin Franklin born in 1706; Joan of Arc born in 1412.
7 Venus closest to the star Antares (about 7° north of the star) in southeast at dawn.
8 Battle of New Orleans Day; Elvis Presley born in 1935.
9 In 1976, 54 inches of snow fell this day in Barnes Corner, New York.
10 Moon near Mars at dusk.
12 Snow and sleet gathered to as much as 50 inches deep across parts of the South this day in 198 2.
14 FIRST QUARTER MOON, 8:35 A.M. EST; New Year’s Day in Julian calendar and in Roman calendar start of year 2753.
16 Mercury at superior conjunction on far side of the sun (unviewable); Jupiter at “east quadrature”(at 90° east of the sun, thus in south around sunset).
17 Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday (observed); Benediction of Animals (Catholic).
19 Sun enters constellation Capricornus; this day in 1977, snowflakes fell even in southernmost mainland Florida; Robert E. Lee born in 1807 and Edgar Alan Poe in 1809.
20 FULL MOON, 11:41 P.M. EST and total eclipse of the moon; St. Agnes’ Eve; temperature plunged to minus 70°F in Rogers Pass, Montana, this day in 1954.
21 Jonathan Swift wrote this day in 1711 in his Journal for Stella, “It has snowed terribly all night, and is vengeance cold. I am not up yet, but cannot write long; my hand will freeze.”
24 Neptune at conjunction with the sun (hence unviewable).
25 St Paul’s Day.
26 Asteroid Pallas at “opposition” (opposite from the sun in the sky, consequently visible virtually all night long), but asteroid is closer and brighter in early February (binoculars and a good star map are needed to find it even then); Foundation Day in Australia.
27 Mozart born in 1756.
28 LAST QUARTER MOON, 2:57 A.M .; Space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986; William Butler Yeats died this day in 1939 (the epitaph he himself wrote for his gravestone: “Cast a cold eye/On life, on death. Horseman, pass by!”)
29 Venus at farthest south among the constellations for year.
30 FDR born in 1882; tornado in Nova Scotia this day in 1954.
31 Venus now rising just two hours before the sun.