Weekly Stargazing Tips

Provided by StarDate.org. Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii).

December 2: Auriga

The constellation Auriga, the charioteer, is low in the northeast at nightfall and passes directly overhead around midnight. Its brightest star is yellow-orange Capella, one of the brighter stars in the night sky.

December 3: Orion Rising

The longer, colder nights of late autumn bring one of the great skywatching treats of the year: the return of Orion to prime time. The hunter is in good view in the east and southeast by 9 o’clock and climbs high across the sky later on.

December 4: Rigel

Look for Rigel, the brightest star in the constellation Orion the hunter, low in the east-southeast by about eight o’clock. The bright blue-white star stands to the right of Orion’s Belt, a short line of three stars that extends straight up from the horizon.

December 5: Mars I

Mars is at its best this week. The planet lines up opposite the Sun, so it’s closest to Earth and is in view all night. It’s low in the east-northeast at nightfall and looks like a brilliant orange star. It climbs high across the sky later on.

December 6: Mars II

Look for Mars low in the east-northeast as night falls, to the lower left of the Moon, and climbing high across the sky later on. It looks like a bright orange star. Only the Moon and the planets Venus and Jupiter outshine it.

December 7: Mars III

Bright Mars will vanish tonight, blocked from view by the Moon. The vanishing act will be visible from all of the U.S. except the southeast, Hawaii, and most of Alaska. The timing depends on your location. At most, the Moon will cover Mars for a bit more than an hour.

December 8: Earliest Sunsets

The shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, is a couple of weeks away, but most of the United States is seeing the earliest sunsets of the year. The days are still getting shorter, though, because the Sun will continue to rise later until after the solstice.