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Gazing at the December night sky


Andrew Yee, astronomer
December 18, 2011 — Stargazers are in for a treat this month, with all five naked eye planets -- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- visible.


After Venus sets, Jupiter becomes the lone visible planet for part of the night
After Venus sets, Jupiter becomes the lone visible planet for part of the night

Hanging low above the southwest horizon after sunset is the brilliant Venus. Its position in the sky is higher than last month, so it is much easier to see the planet.

Opposite in the sky and fairly high above the eastern horizon is Jupiter. After Venus sets, Jupiter becomes the lone prominent planet for much of the night until it sets well before sunrise.

In the morning hours before sunrise, Mars and Saturn appear fairly high in the sky.

The Red Planet is the higher of the two, with Regulus being the brightest star in the constellation, and Leo (The Lion) in the neighbourhood.

Far to the lower left of Mars in the southern sky is Saturn. It appears not far from Spica, which is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo (The Maiden).

Mars and Saturn appear high in the sky
Mars and Saturn appear high in the sky

Mercury becomes fairly visible from mid-month until the end of the month, low above the southeast horizon.

A thin crescent moon joins the act to make a nice pairing with Mercury on December 22nd, before sunrise on the Winter Solstice.

Four days later, on December 26th, a thin crescent moon makes another fine appearance -- this time next to Venus, in the evening twilight sky.

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