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Look up Challenge!

The holidays will undoubtedly be different this year. You may not be able to see all your loved ones… but you will all be under the same sky!

Discover the Universe, in partnership with the Institute for Research on Exoplanets, the Mont-Mégantic Observatory, and the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto, is challenging you to LOOK UP! between December 16, 2020 and January 6, 2021.

To help you navigate the sky and identify these 12 unique astronomy sightings, we are sharing tips and tricks, short videos, and images. They’ll all be uploaded right here on this blog, as well as on our social media.

This challenge is the perfect way to make this holiday season memorable!

Share your discoveries and favourite sightings with us, using the hashtag #LookUpChallenge. Share this activity with friends and relatives, whether they are with you in person or somewhere else in the country, they can marvel at the beauty of the sky with you!

All 12 Look Up Observations:

  1. Sunset

  2. Jupiter and Saturn

  3. Moon: First quarter

  4. Moon and Mars

  5. Mars

  6. Full moon

  7. Ursa Major (or Big Dipper)

  8. Cassiopeia

  9. Orion

  10. Aldebaran

  11. Pleiades

  12. Moon: Last quarter

Use it to track your observations and your progress.

Note: these observations can be done anywhere in Canada and at similar latitudes (USA, Europe...)


Video clips

  • Video # 1: Are you up to the challenge? with Julie Bolduc-Duval, Nathalie Ouellette, Mubdi Rahman, and Ilana MacDonald.

  • Video # 2: Observing the Sky, with Julie Bolduc-Duval

  • Video # 3: Observe Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sunset! (observations # 1 and # 2) with Nathalie Ouellette

  • Video # 4: Observe the Phases of the Moon! (observations # 3, # 6 and # 12) with Ilana MacDonald

  • Video # 5: Observe Mars and the Moon (observations # 4 and # 5) with Mubdi Rahman

  • Video # 6: Observe the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia (observations # 7 and # 8) with Nathalie

  • Video # 7: Observe Orion, the star Aldebaran, and the Pleiades! (observations # 9, # 10, and # 11) with Nathalie


Tips and images for each observation

Observation # 1 Early Sunset

Simply look southwest at the end of the day, and note the time! The Sun sets very early so close to the winter solstice.

Observation # 2 Jupiter and Saturn

Anytime after sunset, go outside to see these two planets. They will become harder to see as the weeks go on, so do this one early! Jupiter and Saturn will be right next to one another on December 21, but no need to wait for that date to look at them.

Observation # 3 Moon: First quarter

The first quarter will be visible on December 21. This is also the day when Jupiter and Saturn will appear at their closest in the sky, but they will be very low in the sky.

Observation # 4 Moon and Mars

On December 23, Mars will be visible just above the Moon. You can also see them near each other on December 22 and 24.

Observation # 5 Mars

The planet Mars will be visible during the three weeks of the challenge, and even after. Look for it high in the sky, looking south. It's the brightest point of light you'll see there so it's easy to spot.

Observation # 6 Full Moon

The Moon will be full on December 29. You will be able to see it rise in the north-east around sunset. You can also see it almost full on the nights before or after December 29.

Observation # 7 Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

The Big Dipper is one of the easiest patterns to recognize in the stars. It's part of the Greco-Roman constellation Ursa Major (the Big Bear). Look for it low on the northern horizon in the evening.

Observation # 8 Cassiopeia

Depending on the time of the year, the constellation Cassiopeia looks like a W or an M. Right now, it's high in the northern sky, looking like an M. From Canada, you can see Cassiopeia all year round, just like the Big Dipper.

Observation # 9 Orion

Orion is a beautiful constellation visible in winter. The stars in it are quite bright and they form an hour-glass shape, with three stars aligned in the middle (what we call Orion's belt). If you can, compare the colours of the stars Betelgeuse and Rigel - do you see a difference?

Observation # 10 Aldebaran

If you follow Orion's belt to the upper-right, you'll find the bright star Aldebaran. Scientists have recently found a giant planet in orbit around that star. Planets found outside our Solar system are called exoplanets.

Observation # 11 Pleiades

The Pleiades are a beautiful cluster of stars visible to the naked eye. If you use the trick using Orion's belt to find Aldebaran, keep going in the same direction and you'll find the Pleiades. How many stars can you count?

Observation # 12 Moon: Last quarter

Have you ever seen the Moon during the day? This is your chance! The last quarter moon is visible in the morning so look for it when you get up, ideally before 10am for it to be high enough in the sky.


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