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In the Sky This Month

Myriad planets line up in the evening sky this month. Venus continues its run as the Evening Star, shining brightest early in the month. Much fainter Saturn stands to the upper left of Venus, with bright Jupiter, the second-brightest pinpoint in the night sky, about the same distance to the upper left of Saturn. Mercury pops into view late in the month, close to Venus.

December 3: Bright Planets

Venus is at its brightest for its current “evening star” appearance the next couple of nights. It is more than 10 times brighter than the next-brightest pinpoint of light in the night sky, Jupiter, which shines far to the upper left of Venus.

December 4: Flaming Nebula

Auriga the charioteer is in the northeast at nightfall, marked by the bright star Capella. A cloud of gas and dust, the Flaming Star Nebula, to the lower right of Capella, is an easy target for small telescopes. It is being lit up by the supergiant star AE Aurigae.

December 5: Earliest Sunsets

The earliest sunsets of the year come a few days or weeks before the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, on December 21. The exact date varies by latitude. They come earlier from southern locations, and closer to the solstice from farther north.

December 6: Moon and Venus

The Moon and the planet Venus put on a great show early tonight. Venus is the brilliant “evening star.” It stands just above the thin crescent Moon.

December 7: Moon and Saturn

The giant planet Saturn stands near the Moon tonight. It looks like a bright star, just above the Moon at nightfall. They’re flanked by the brighter planets Venus, to the lower right, and Jupiter, to the upper left.

December 8: Moon and Jupiter

The Moon hangs out with Jupiter, the giant of the solar system, the next couple of nights. The brilliant planet stands above the Moon as night falls tonight, and to the right of the Moon tomorrow night.

December 9: More Moon and Jupiter

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, stands to the right of the Moon as night falls this evening. Jupiter is the second-brightest pinpoint of light in the night sky, after Venus, which shines far to the lower right of Jupiter in early evening.

New MoonNew December 4, 1:43 am

First QuarterFirst December 10, 7:36 pm

Full MoonFull December 18, 10:35 pm

Last quarterLast December 26, 8:24 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee December 4

Apogee December 17

The full Moon of December is known as the Long Night Moon or Moon Before Yule.