Last Week's Stargazing Tips

December 18: Moon and Saturn

A bare wisp of a crescent Moon shines down on the planet Saturn at dawn tomorrow. Saturn is close to the lower left of the Moon, and looks like a bright golden star.

December 17: Moon and Libra

The Moon will will stand just a few degrees above Zubenelgenubi, the second-brightest stars of Libra, the balance scales, at dawn tomorrow. The constellation’s brightest star, Zubeneschamali, will be farther to the right of the Moon.

December 16: Moon and Spica

Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo, is in good view in the east at dawn tomorrow, close to the upper right of the crescent Moon.

December 15: Earliest Sunsets

The shortest day of the year is the winter solstice, on December 21. Yet the year’s earliest sunsets came around December 1 for those in Miami, about a week later for those in Dallas, and a few days later still for those in the north.

December 14: Cetus

Cetus, the sea monster, crawls across the sky on December evenings. The constellation is in the south and southeast at nightfall, and due south around 9 p.m. It offers few bright stars, so you need dark skies to see it.

December 13: Mars at Perihelion

Mars is snuggling especially close to the Sun right now. It was at its closest just yesterday, at a distance of about 128 million miles, which is 14 million miles closer than average.

December 12: Geminid Meteors

The Geminid meteor shower is at its best the next couple of nights. There are more meteors after midnight, when Earth faces more directly into the meteor stream. By then, though, the Moon will be in the sky, so its glare will interfere with the show.


©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory