By nightfall, the bright moon rises above the Seven Sisters (Pleiades star cluster) in the northeast. In Taurus, Bull, bright Jupiter glows upper left of ruddy Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) and anchors the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face) with Aldebaran. Capella twinkles in the northeast, guiding Auriga, Charioteer, toward the north. The Gemini Twins appear on the northeastern horizon. The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia (M-shaped group), Andromeda and our nearest galaxy and Perseus, Hero. Gigantic Orion, Hunter awakens in the east and chases the Bull across the sky all night. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. The Great Square of Pegasus (Winged Horse) glides westward ahead of Aries, Ram. Tiny Mars lies low in Capricornus in the southwest. Blue-green Uranus, in Pisces, follows dim Neptune in Aquarius in the southwest. Mid-evening, brilliant blue Sirius (nearby star) sparkles in Orion's Big Dog in the southeast. By midnight Leo, Lion, stalks the eastern horizon.
Tonight aim binoculars to bright Jupiter a half degree from the moon in the east.
Ancient Roman feast Saturnalia, with land masters and servants, was celebrated Dec. 19 following a late harvest. Early Christians extended their celebration of the Nativity to Dec. 25, merging with ancient Germanic tribes’ Yule festival, to avoid a conflict with Saturnalia. In spring of about 7 B.C. shepherds saw a possible triple planetary conjunction or supernova illuminate the night sky, which guided the three wise men to Bethlehem (from Guy Ottewell's Astronomical Companion).
Four plants visible before dawn. In the southeast, Venus, Morning Star, glows 10 degrees above descending Mercury. They hover above bright Antares, the red heart beating in huge Scorpius low in the southeast. Spica, in Virgo, twinkles above silver Saturn in the south. Leo, Lion, crawls westward. Gemini Twins glide into the northwest. Jupiter sets in the west-northwest. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Arcturus sparkles in the east.
Winter moon is full 5:21 a.m. Bright moon rises in northeast in Gemini at dusk.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org