A myriad of bright stars twinkles across the sky early this evening. In the west, look for the stars of the Summer Triangle, Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Fomalhaut is low in the south, and yellow-orange Capella is low in the northeast.
Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii). Check out last week's tips if you missed a night.
Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is putting in its best appearance of the year. It rises around sunset, scoots high across the sky during the night, and sets around sunrise. It also shines brightest for the year.
Jupiter is quite low in the east-northeast as night falls but soon ascends into good view. It remains in view all night, and until Venus rises in the wee hours of the morning, Jupiter is the brightest pinpoint of light in the sky.
The Milky Way arches high overhead on December evenings. This faint band passes from the Northern Cross, which is in the west, to W-shaped Cassiopeia high overhead, to near the face of Taurus, the bull, in the east.
Lyra is in the west this evening, marked by its brightest star, Vega. RR Lyrae, a star that plays a key role in measuring the distances to all stars, stands above Vega. You need binoculars or a small telescope to spot it, however.
The Moon will reach its “last-quarter” phase at 9:31 a.m. CST tomorrow, when it lines up at a right angle to the line between Earth and the Sun. Half of the lunar surface is illuminated, with that fraction growing smaller over the following week.
Capella, the brightest star of Auriga, the charioteer, is in the northeast as night falls, far to the left of the dazzling planet Jupiter. The yellow star arcs high overhead after midnight and is in the northwest at first light.