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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

December 6: Guiding Lights II

The Moon reaches first-quarter tonight, signifying that it is one quarter of the way through its month-long cycle of phases. The cycle reaches its zenith at full Moon on the night of December 13.

December 5: Guiding Lights

Three planets line up to the lower right of the Moon tonight. Mars is closest to the Moon, with Venus, the “evening star,” farther along the same line. Mercury is farther still, just above the horizon, and visible mainly from the southern U.S.

December 4: Moon and Mars

The Moon slides past the planet Mars tonight. Mars looks like a bright orange star close to the left of the Moon. The planet Venus, the brilliant “evening star,” stands well to their lower right in early evening.

December 3: Moon and Capricornus

Capricornus, the sea-goat, is low in the south and southwest as night falls. Its leading stars outline the bottom of a bikini bathing suit. The Moon is at the constellation’s western edge tonight, so the bathing suit is to the upper left of the Moon.

December 2: Moon and Venus

The Moon and the planet Venus form a beautiful pairing early tonight. Venus is the brilliant “evening star” not far to the left of the Moon. They set by about 8 p.m.

December 1: Earliest Sunsets

The year’s earliest sunsets come over the next couple of weeks, even though the shortest day of the year isn’t until December 21, the winter solstice. The date of earliest sunset happens first at southern latitudes, then works northward.

November 30: Beta Pegasi

The Great Square of Pegasus passes high overhead this evening. The star at its northwestern corner, Beta Pegasi, is a red giant. The star is nearing the end of its life, so it has puffed up to gigantic proportions.