Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, looks like a brilliant star near the Moon tonight. After the Moon, Jupiter is by far the brightest object in the sky for most of the night.
One of the busiest stellar nurseries in the galaxy stands about half way up the southern sky at nightfall now. The Orion Nebula has given birth to thousands of stars, with many more taking shape even now.
Cassiopeia, the queen, is written large across the northern sky this evening. It looks like a big letter M or W. It’s high in the northwest at nightfall and drops low across the north later on.
Neptune is the Sun’s most remote major planet, and the fourth largest, but it is too faint to see with the unaided eye. This evening, it stands above the crescent Moon. Under dark skies, Neptune is visible through strong binoculars or a small telescope.
Two faint stars in Cancer have names that mean the northern and southern donkeys — Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis. They’re on opposite sides of the crab’s back. They flank Cancer’s most famous member, a star cluster known as the manger or the beehive.
Most stars are born in giant, colorful clouds of gas and dust. One example is the Rosette Nebula, which looks like a rose. It’s in Monoceros, the unicorn, which is in the south-southeast at nightfall, to the lower left of much brighter Orion.
Monoceros, the unicorn, fills a void between the bright constellations Orion, Gemini, Canis Major, and Canis Minor. Yet you need dark skies to see even a smattering of stars in that region. None of its stars represents the horn of the unicorn.
The Little Dipper twirls around the northern sky every night of the year. Tonight, the bowl dangles below the handle at nightfall, and stands above the handle at first light.
Kepler-47 is a rare system in which a single planet orbits two stars. It is close to the Northern Cross, which is plunging below the northwestern horizon at sunset. Kapler-47 is off the end of the cross’s right arm, but so faint that you need a telescope to see it.
Venus is the brilliant Morning Star. The planet will stand well to the lower left of the Moon at dawn tomorrow, and closer to the Moon on Wednesday.