December events at Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory

Join Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory throughout the month of December for free, educational celestial events and discussions 

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. CT, Heather Bloemhard, assistant director for federal relations in Vanderbilt University’s Office of Federal Relations, will discuss the governmental structures, systems and policies that affect our ability to study and observe space. The event, “Light pollution to space junk: how federal policy affects our relationship with space” will be streamed onlineBloemhard, also a trained astronomer and physicist, will discuss light pollution, operation of facilities and missions, space traffic (including space junk), spectrum allocation, planetary protection, asteroid mining and exploration. No registration is required.  

On Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. CT, join Billy Teets, acting director and outreach astronomer for Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory, and collaborating organizations from across Tennessee for a virtual star party. Weather permitting, participants will enjoy live viewings of the sky that will include the Great Orion Nebula and the planet Uranus. The party is free to attend and will be streamed online. A star chart that shows the positions of the stars, planets and Moon on Dec. 12 can be downloaded in advance of the event from the Dyer home page.  

On Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. CT, meet Vanderbilt professor of astronomy David Weintraub as he discusses a topic that often pops up this time of year—can astronomy explain the Star of Bethlehem? Might it have been a bright conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, like the one we will witness on Dec. 21? Weintraub will use the Gospel of Matthew, some well-established historical reference points and our understanding of astronomy as it was practiced 2,000 years ago to look for an explanation of this renowned spectacle. The event will be free and streamed online. No registration is required.  

On Monday, Dec. 21, at 5 p.m. CT, Teets will host a virtual viewing through Dyer’s telescopes of a particularly rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. In December, Jupiter and Saturn have appeared as bright “stars” in the southwestern sky that draw noticeably closer each night. On Dec. 21, the two will appear closer together in our sky than they have in nearly four centuries, making them simultaneously visible in a telescope. The next extraordinarily close conjunction of the two giant planets won’t occur for another 60 years, making this a once-in-a-lifetime event for many! This event is free and dependent on clear skies. The event will be free and streamed online. No registration is required.