At nightfall radiant Venus, Goddess of the Evening, glows brightest in Capricornus. She sets in the southwest about 7:30 p.m. Dazzling winter stars blanket the eastern sky. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades star cluster) lead the stellar parade. Taurus, Bull climbs higher in the east. A red giant star Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). Bright Capella, a double star, guides Auriga, Charioteer, into the north-northeast.
The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda and Perseus. Andromeda is our closest galaxy. Binoculars reveal a myriad of clusters in the north and eastern sky.
Bright Jupiter glows beside the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux, in the northeast. Four closest satellite moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto dance around storm-banded Jupiter. The dim Beehive star cluster shimmers below the Twins.
In the east, gigantic Orion, Hunter, chases the Bull overhead. The Great Orion Nebula (huge gas cloud where stars are born) glows from Orion’s sword. Spectacular in telescopes! Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius (nearby star with a companion white dwarf star) sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southeast.
Cetus, Whale, swims across the south. Phoenix spreads its wings on the southern horizon. Outer planets blue-green Uranus in Pisces, Fish, follows blue Neptune in Aquarius, across the southwest. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, westward. The Northern Cross stands within the vast Summer Triangle on the northwestern horizon.
Ruddy Mars rises in the east, in Virgo, around midnight followed by Spica 12 degrees below the red planet. Corvus, Crow, flies across the south. At dawn, silver Saturn, in Libra, drifts 20 degrees above the southeastern horizon. Huge Scorpius peers over the southeastern horizon.
Leo, Lion crawls westward. Bright Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles in the east. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. Polaris is the tip of the Little Dipper’s handle. Last Quarter Moon occurs 8:48 a.m. Christmas morning.
At dawn the waning moon rises in the southeast near Spica in Virgo.
By 6 a.m. a thin crescent moon, with dark Earthshine, leads Saturn higher in the southeast.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org