Weekly Stargazing Tips

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.

Sunny Days

The Sun is rising later and setting earlier each day as we head toward the winter solstice in December. It also travels lower across the southern sky. The shorter days and low Sun angle combine to make the weather colder.

Mira

Mira, the “miraculous” star, in the constellation Cetus, is high in the south during mid to late evening. Mira got its name because it periodically disappears then reappears, the result of a rhythmic expansion and contraction.

Cassiopeia

Beautiful Cassiopeia circles high across the northern sky on autumn evenings. Its brightest stars form a letter M or W. In western culture, it represented the mythological queen of Ethiopia.

Auriga

Auriga, the charioteer, is low in the northeast early this evening and crowns the sky in the wee hours of the morning. Its leading light is brilliant Capella, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

Orion Returns

Orion, the hunter, is returning to prime viewing time. Tonight, it climbs into good view in the east by around 9 or 9:30. Look for its “belt” of three stars, which points almost straight up from the horizon as the hunter rises.

Moon and Mars

The little planet Mars is in good view this evening. It looks like an orange star close to the left of the Moon. They are low in the southwest at nightfall, and set a couple of hours later.

Galaxy Mergers

The stars of winter are working their way into the evening sky. Look for them in the east beginning around 10 or 11 p.m.: Orion, the hunter; Gemini, the twins; and Canis Major, the big dog, with its “dog star” Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

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