Early this morning, the full Moon sat below bright Jupiter, nearly wiping out the planet in its glare. The image shows a greatly overexposed Moon and nearby Jupiter. (Light saturation and consequent spillage causes the Moon to appear much larger than it actually was.) Three of Jupiter's four Galilean moons can be glimpsed, two on the left of the planet and the third on the right. The order from left to right is Europa, Io, Jupiter, and Callisto. The fourth moon, Ganymede, is lost in the planet's glare and lies to Jupiter's immediate right.
12/2, Jupiter is at opposition and shines all night.
12/4: Mercury reaches its farthest point from the sun in the morning sky. If the skies are clear near the southeastern horizon, the little planet can be glimpsed as a "star." Binoculars will help find it in the bright dawn sky.
12/7: Earliest sunset
12/8, The brightest asteroid,Vesta, is at opposition. Binoculars and a finder chart are needed to find this dim object.
12/9: Moon lies just below the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. This is visible in the morning sky.
12/10: Moon is next to Saturn in the morning sky.
12/12: Crescent Moon is next to Mercury very low in the sky at 6:50 a.m. Binoculars may be needed to spot Mercury.
12/13: Geminid Meteor Shower beginning about 8 p.m. and continuing through dawn on the 14th. No moonlight interferes this year, so, over 60 meteors per hour might be glimpsed from a dark location.
12/15: Crescent Moon glows just above Mars at 6:00 p.m. in the southwest. Because of the Red Planet's dimness in the bright evening twilight, binoculars may be needed to see it.
12/21: 6:12 a.m. EST, Winter solstice. The sun reaches it lowest point along its daily arc across the sky and winter officially begins. The length of time of daylight increases, very slowly at first then faster in February.
Earlier this week, brilliant Venus passed Saturn in our early morning sky. Now, the Earth-sized planet drops closer to the horizon as the Ringed Planet pulls away higher in the sky. As the mornings pass, Venus approaches closer to the not-yet-risen sun, eventually coming between it and us next year.
Look for Venus and Saturn in the southeast at 6 a.m. all this week.