The moon and its planetary companions are putting on a great show this week.
The moon has already visited Venus and Saturn in the night sky for the past few days, and tonight (December 8) Earth’s natural satellite will sneak up on Jupiter. Look up into the western sky about an hour after sunset to get a good look at the dazzling duo.
Saturn and Venus will also be part of that view, arranged in a diagonal line extending down and to the right of Jupiter.
Night sky, December 2021: what you can see this month (maps)
“It is as if they are on a celestial string. And indeed, astronomers call this imaginary string ecliptic across our sky,” wrote Deborah Byrd and John Jardine Goss in a recent EarthSky story. “It is really the plane of our solar system, the plane in which all the major planets and, for the most part, their moons, travel around the sun.”
The moon will continue to move higher in the sky for the next several days, moving further away from the trio of planets. But it will still be relatively close to Jupiter tomorrow night (December 9), so be sure to check it out as well.
And you may want to give Venus, currently the brightest planet in the night sky, a little extra attention. The second rock of the sun will disappear below the evening horizon in early January, emerging at the end of the same month as a “morning star” that shines before sunrise. Venus will not return to our night sky until December 2022.
Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and (obviously) the moon are visible to the naked eye right now. But if you want to improve your eyesight, check out our guide for the best binocular deals and the best telescope deals available right now. And our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can help you choose the best equipment to capture and save your sky observation locations.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.
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