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Tonight's Sky, December 2011 (highlights of the December sky)

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Uploaded on Nov 30, 2011

December Evening Planets
Just after sunset, look for Venus blazing brightly in the southwestern sky.
By nightfall, Jupiter is already high in the southeastern sky.

December Constellations and Deep-Sky Objects
Two prominent constellations in the December night sky represent
notable individuals of ancient Greek mythology.
The great hero Perseus holds the head of Medusa the Gorgon.
Queen Cassiopeia was punished for her conceit and vanity by being tied
to her throne.
Cassiopeia's "W" shape makes this constellation easy to identify.
Eta Cassiopeiae is a wonderful and colorful double star. Use binoculars or
a small telescope to discern its gold and purple hues.
Lying between Cassiopeia and Perseus is the lovely Double Cluster.
This pair of open star clusters is easy to see with binoculars.
Open star clusters are groups of young stars that all formed at the same
time within a large cloud of dust and gas.
The Double Cluster resembles a handful of diamonds scattered on black
velvet, with a ruby in between.
M103 in Perseus is another fine open star cluster with a prominent red
star near the center. Its fan shape is evident in binoculars.
Yet another open star cluster in Perseus is M34, about 1,400 light-years
away from us. Look for it with the naked eye or with binoculars in a dark
sky.

December Morning Planets
Both Mars and Saturn are early morning planets this month.
Mars is up all morning long and climbs high into the sky before dawn.
Saturn appears a little later in the morning, shining above the southeastern
horizon well before sunrise.

December Special Events
The mid-December night sky hosts a lovely meteor shower. From
December 13 th to 14th the bright and fast Geminids will skip across the
upper atmosphere. Watch for meteors zipping away from the constellation
Gemini after midnight.
Many skywatchers will enjoy a lunar eclipse on December 10. This
happens when the Moon passes through Earth's shadow. The Moon does
not quite disappear but turns a coppery red. Viewers in North America will
see the eclipsed Moon sink into the western horizon before dawn.

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