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The sky offers some beautiful holiday treats the next couple of nights: the gibbous Moon, some brilliant planets, and the bright constellations of winter.
Step outside before dinner to see Jupiter and Saturn in the southwest. The giant planets look like they’re about to touch each other. Jupiter is the brighter of the two, with Saturn a little lower in the sky. They’re inching away from each other, but will remain quite close through the end of the year.
At that same hour, the planet Mars shines like an orange star to the upper right of the Moon. Mars is among the half-dozen brightest objects in the night sky, so you can’t miss it. Mars and the Moon will remain close throughout the night, but will be farther apart by tomorrow night.
The constellations of winter take over after dinner. Orion, perhaps the most beautiful of all constellations, is in great view in the east and southeast by about 8 p.m. Look for its “belt” of three stars, with bright orange Betelgeuse to the left and blue-white Rigel to the right.
Follow the line of the belt toward the horizon to find Sirius, the Dog Star. It’s the brightest star in the entire night sky.
Other bright constellations encircle Orion, including Taurus, the bull, and Gemini, the twins.
And for those who start their Christmas Day early, the planet Venus is in the southeast during the dawn twilight. It’s the brilliant “morning star” — a beautiful treat for an early Christmas morn’.
Script by Damond Benningfield