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Moon and Capricornus

December 3, 2016

Learning the constellations can be hard work. Most of their connect-the-dots patterns are faint and difficult to find, especially from light-polluted cities.

Sometimes, though, Mothern Nature offers a sort of cheat sheet — one or more bright objects that point the way. And that’s the case right now for Capricornus the sea-goat.

The constellation is low in the south and southwest as night falls. Its brightest stars outline the bottom of a bikini bathing suit. Once you identify it, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it again on later nights.

That’s especially true right now, because the solar system offers three bright lights to help you find the sea-goat: Mars, the Moon, and Venus.

Tonight, the Moon is at the constellation’s western edge, so the bathing suit is arrayed to the left of the Moon. Venus, the “evening star,” is below the Moon, just outside the constellation. It’s moving toward Capricornus, though, and will cross its borders in a few nights. It’ll spend the rest of the month transiting the constellation. So if you follow Venus through the end of the year, you’ll see all of Capricornus.

Orange Mars is also moving across the constellation. Tonight, it stands next to Iota Capricorni, a star that’s visible only from areas with dark skies. Early next week, though, Mars will pass by a couple of brighter stars, at the left end of the bikini — helping you learn this famous constellation.

More about the Moon and Mars tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield


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