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 4: Gemini Rising

The twins of Gemini arc high across the sky on December nights. Right now, the constellation is low in the east-northeast by about 8 p.m. and passes almost directly overhead in the wee hours of the morning.

December 5: Moon and Regulus

Regulus, the bright heart of Leo, the lion, shines close to the gibbous Moon the next couple of nights. The star is below the Moon as they climb into view by midnight tonight.

December 6: Sculptor

The constellation Sculptor is in the south at nightfall, to the lower left of Fomalhaut, the only bright star in that part of the sky. Sculptor has no bright stars of its own, so you need to get away from city lights to see any of the constellation.

December 7: Sculptor Galaxies

A collection of galaxies known as the Sculptor Group spreads across the constellation Sculptor and adjoining Cetus. One of the group’s most impressive members is NGC 247. Although too faint to see with the eye alone, it’s an easy target for a small telescope.

December 8: Orion Nebula

Orion clears the eastern horizon by about 8 p.m. Its most prominent feature is its belt of three stars. The Orion Nebula, which is the faint smudge of light to the lower right of the belt, is a vast stellar nursery.

December 9: Moon and Spica

Spica, the leading light of the constellation Virgo, stands to the lower right of the Moon at first light tomorrow. Spica consists of two stars, but most of the system’s light comes from the bigger star. It is destined to explode as a supernova.

December 10: Geminid Meteors

The Geminid meteor shower should be at its peak on Sunday night. It’s one of the year’s best showers, and frequently offers some especially bright meteors. It spikes quickly, however, so there aren’t many meteors before or after the peak.