Again this month, the main feature of the night sky are the planets with Mars appearing large in opposition on the 8th and visible all night throughout the month. In fact all five planets visible to the naked eye can be seen. Jupiter remains bright and Saturn is still visible, though is setting ever earlier.
Having several planets arrayed across the sky again brings home how they are aligned on or close to the line known as the ecliptic which is also the path the sun travels across the sky. As you look up at the arc of planets, imagine yourself looking along the flat plane of the solar system where the planets rotate around the sun.
Speaking of planets, if you want to look up what is in the sky tonight or any future night, you can give the Stellarium software a try. They have a PC version as well as web and phone apps available. The PC and web versions are free. For example, here are the times planets are visible on December 1st – 2nd:
Also this month there are two meteor shower events – the Geminids from Dec 4 – Dec 17th and the Ursids from Dec 17th to 26th. As you can see from Jeffs calendar below, the bright moon will interfere with the peak of the Geminids.
Jupiter Eclipse Events on Friday and Saturday Nights Dec 2 9:04 PM Io Eclipse End (S -49 J 227 43) Dec 2 10:47 PM Europa Eclipse Start (S -67 J 253 27) Dec 9 11:00 PM Io Eclipse End (S -69 J 260 20) Dec 11 5:29 PM Io Eclipse End (S -8 J 162 46) The Sun Dec 11 will rise at 7:17 AM, will set at 4:46 PM The Moon Dec 7 Full Moon Dec 16 Last Quarter Dec 23 New Moon Dec 29 First Quarter Events Dec 7 Mars is at opposition (Earth between Mars and the Sun) Dec 14 The Geminid meteor shower peaks (active Dec 4 to Dec 20) (from IMO) Dec 21 Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation (from Espenak) Dec 21 Winter solstice (from Espenak) The Planets Dec 11 rises transits sets Mercury 8:45 AM 1:18 PM 5:51 PM Venus 8:17 AM 12:55 PM 5:34 PM Mars 4:07 PM 11:37 PM 7:12 AM Jupiter 12:48 PM 6:45 PM 12:46 AM Saturn 11:10 AM 4:20 PM 9:29 PM