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This Week's Sky at a Glance
5 years ago
Night sky sights for November 30 – December 8.
by Alan M. MacRobert

Dawn view
Mercury has emerged into fine view low in early dawn, lining up with Venus and Saturn. Watch all week as the line lenghtens; Saturn (and Spica) move higher to the upper right. The blue 10° scale is about the width of your fist at arm's length.
Friday, November 30
  • The waning Moon rises less than an hour after the end of twilight. Once it's up, look to the right of it (by a bit more than a fist-width at arm's length) for orange-red Betelgeuse sparkling in Orion's rising shoulder.

    Saturday, December 1

  • Since Jupiter just about at opposition, the asteroids Ceres and Vesta in Jupiter's vicinity are near opposition too. Vesta has brightened to magnitude 6.6, Ceres 7.2. Spot them in binoculars using our finder chart in the December Sky & Telescope, page 50, or online. They're near the horns of Taurus. This evening you'll have the darkest view of them shortly before moonrise. (The Moon rises around 7 p.m. depending on your location.)

    Sunday, December 2

  • Jupiter is at opposition tonight: opposite the Sun as seen from Earth. So it rises around sunset, shines highest in the south around midnight, and sets around sunrise. Whenever Jupiter comes to opposition at this time of year, it's shining near Aldebaran and the Pleiades.

    Majestic Orion
    Orion on the rise stands framed between treetops at the start of a cold winter night in Wyoming’s Teton Mountains. First-quarter moonlight illuminates the scene. Centered between the trees is Orion’s three-star Belt, nearly vertical. Sirius has not yet risen.
    Allan E. Morton
    Monday, December 3
  • By 8 or 9 p.m., wintry Orion is well up in the east-southeast. Orion's Belt in his middle points up more or less toward Aldebaran and bright Jupiter. And it points down toward where Sirius, the brightest star of the night, is about to rise. Watch for it.

    Tuesday, December 4

  • Sometime between 6 and 8 each evening now (depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone), bright Vega sinking in the northwest, and equally bright Capella climbing in the northeast, will be at exactly the same height. How accurately can you time their balance moment for your location?
5 years ago

Wednesday, December 5

  • Ganymede, the largest satellite of Jupiter, crosses Jupiter's face tonight from 9:25 to 11:17 p.m. EST, closely followed by its black shadow from 9:37 to 11:44 p.m. EST. In amateur telescopes, Ganymede's shadow will be much more obvious against Jupiter's bright surface than Ganymede itself is.

    Thursday, December 6

  • Last-quarter Moon (exact at 10:31 a.m). The Moon rises around the middle of the night tonight. In the small hours of Friday morning it climbs the eastern sky beneath Leo.
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses Jupiter's central meridian around 11:45 p.m. EST. (For all of Jupiter's satellite events and Great Red Spot transit times this month, good worldwide, see the December Sky & Telescope, pages 51–52.)

    Friday, December 7

  • This is the time of year when the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, passes the zenith in early evening for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes. It goes exactly through your zenith if you're at 41° north latitude (New York, Denver). Whenthis happens depends on your location.

    Saturday, December 8

  • This is the time of year when Cassiopeia, now a flattened M shape, is poised at its very highest in the north in early evening.
  • Vesta is at is opposition tonight, not far from Jupiter. It's magnitude 6.4. Ceres, which comes to opposition in nine days, is magnitude 6.9. Spot them in binoculars using our finder chart in the December Sky & Telescope, page 50, or online

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