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Southern Cross Stargazer for Dec. 7-13, 2014

Sunday

At dusk brilliant Venus glows near the spout of the tilted Sagittarian Teapot on the southwestern horizon. During the month, the Evening Star will ascend higher in the western sky. Faded Mars, in Capricornus, lingers in the southwest until 8:30 p.m. Dim Neptune sails high across the southwest in Aquarius. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune. Blue-green Uranus drifts across the south in Pisces, the Fish.

Cetus, the Whale, swims across the southeast. Overhead, Aries, the Ram, chases Pegasus, the Winged Horse, westward. Vega leads the vast Summer Triangle lower in the northwest. Cygnus, the Swan, becomes the Northern Cross. The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, their daughter Andromeda with the Andromeda Galaxy, and Perseus, Hero.

Capella guides Auriga, the Charioteer, higher in the northeast. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades) lead Taurus, the Bull, higher in the east-northeast. Aldebaran (the Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face).

Mid-evening, gigantic Orion, the Hunter, reclines in the east before his nocturnal pursuit of the Bull. The Great Orion Nebula (stellar nursery) is spectacular in telescopes. Newborn stars are visible in the nebula, 173 trillion miles in diameter. The moon rises near Orion. Procyon, Little Dog in the east, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog in the southeast.

Late evening, bright Jupiter rises higher in the east beside Leo, the Lion. The Big Dipper appears in the northeast.

Wednesday

Tonight the bright waning moon floats 9 degrees below the dim Beehive cluster and 7 degrees from Regulus in Leo, the Lion.

Thursday

Before dawn, silver Saturn emerges above the southeastern horizon in Libra. Spica, in Virgo, rises higher in the southeast. Corvus, the Crow, flies into the south. Bright Jupiter, the moon and the Lion are overhead. Arcturus, a red giant star, sparkles in the northeast.

The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Its bowl always faces Polaris, the North Star. Capella steers the Charioteer into the northwest. Orion leans toward the western horizon. Brilliant Sirius sparkles in the Big Dog in the southwest, trailed by the Pups in the south.

Saturday

The major Geminid Meteor Shower may produce early meteors by mid-evening. The shower may be underway before moonrise around midnight. The Geminids radiate from the Gemini Twins rising in the northeast late evening and may produce 80 meteors per hour before dawn Sunday. Geminid Meteors will continue to be visible Sunday evening until dawn Monday.

Weather permitting, Southern Cross Astros will host a MeteorWatch from 8:30 to 11 p.m. at Bill Sadowski Park on Southwest 176th Street west of Old Cutler Road. Optical equipment is not needed. High-tech equipment will be focused on planets and winter constellations. Bring chairs, blankets, jackets and hot beverages. No lights, alcohol or pets are allowed in the park, and tickets will be issued to cars parked on private property on 79th Avenue. Detauls at 305-661-1375 or scas.org.

Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org.

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