The panoply of the winter sky begins to take over the evening hours. Orion, perhaps the most beautiful constellation, is in full view at nightfall by the middle of the month, highlighted by its three-star belt and the stars Betelgeuse, in the hunter’s shoulder, and Rigel, at his foot. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, trails below the belt, followed by the other stars of his constellation, Canis Major, the big dog.
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In the Sky This Month
December 6: Fire and Water
The ancient elements of fire and water sit side by side low in the southern sky at this time of year. Fire is represented by the constellation Fornax, the furnace. To its east is the watery constellation Eridanus, the river.
December 7: Moon and Spica
Spica will stand close below the Moon at dawn tomorrow, with Venus farther to the lower left of the Moon. Spica is the brightest star of the constellation Virgo, while Venus is the beautiful Morning Star.
December 8: Moon and Venus
The weekend gets off to a beautiful start early tomorrow. The Moon and the planet Venus, the Morning Star, climb into good view by two or three hours before sunrise. They are well up in the southeast as twilight paints the sky.
December 9: Sculptor
The constellation Sculptor, which represents a sculptor’s studio, stretches across the south at nightfall. To find it, first find Fomalhaut, the lonely bright star low in the south at nightfall. Sculptor spreads out to the lower left of Fomalhaut.
December 10: Alpha Camelopardalis
Alpha Camelopardalis is one of the brighter stars of the giraffe, a faint constellation that is in the north on December evenings. The star looks faint, but only because it’s 6,000 light-years away. It’s actually hundreds of thousands of times brighter than the Sun.
December 11: Geminid Meteors
The Geminid meteor shower is building toward its peak, on Wednesday night. There won’t be any moonlight to spoil the show, so if you can get away from city lights it should be a good display.
December 13: Sirius Rising
Sirius, the brightest star in all the night sky, is clawing its way into prime-time viewing. It is low in the southeast by 9:30 or 10 p.m., and high in the south after midnight. It’s the brightest star of Canis Major, the Big Dog, so it’s also known as the Dog Star.
Last December 4, 11:49 pm
New December 12, 5:32 pm
First December 19, 12:39 pm
Full December 26, 6:33 pm
Times are U.S. Central Time.
Apogee December 4
Perigee December 16
The full Moon of December is known as the Long Night Moon or Moon Before Yule.