Sky Report by Ted Gruber
Jupiter (magnitude -1.9), Venus (-3.9), and Saturn (0.6) are all visible in the early evening as the southwest sky darkens. Venus appears a little higher in the sky with each passing night, while Jupiter and Saturn appear lower each night.
In early December, Venus and Saturn appear to get closer to each other each night. They make their closest apparent approach the evening of December 10, when Venus appears just below the ringed planet. That night Venus and Saturn form a small triangle with Pluto appearing just to their east, but you’ll need a large telescope and dark skies to see that distant world. After the 10th, Venus and Saturn appear to move farther apart each night.
Mercury (magnitude 0.5) and Mars (1.7) are visible in the southeast sky just before sunrise. Reddish Mars rises around 5:00am, followed by Mercury about an hour later.
The Geminids meteor shower is active from December 4-17, peaking the night of December 13-14. The Geminids are often one of the strongest showers of the year, but unfortunately this year the nearly full moon will significantly reduce the number of meteors visible during the peak. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini high in the eastern sky (almost directly above).
New (11/26), first (12/4), full (12/12), last (12/18), new (12/26).
Messier of the Month – M39
M39 is a magnitude 5.5 open cluster in the constellation Cygnus. It contains 30 confirmed stars and an estimated age of 200 to 300 million years. The cluster is about 825 light years distant. M39 spans an area larger than the full moon, so it is best observed through binoculars or a small telescope at low power.
A short video compilation of some highlights from this annual event.
Friends of Galileo
We are astronomy enthusiasts who love to learn and to share our wonder at the amazing sights right overhead.