The pretty, bright planet party will continue this week as Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn dance in the western sky after sunset. You’ll need an unobstructed view of the horizon to the southwest to see them. Once the sun has set and the sky begins to darken after about 5 p.m. local time, look for medium-bright Jupiter sitting about a palm’s width above the southwestern horizon. Jupiter will be setting shortly before 6 p.m. local time this week.
Much brighter Venus will be situated to Jupiter’s upper left this week. Last week, Venus and Jupiter passed one another. This week, they will draw farther apart — doubling their separation from seven to 14 degrees. And as Venus flees Jupiter, it will be closing in on Saturn.
Mercury and Mars are still putting on a show in the eastern pre-dawn sky, although Mercury will be exiting the scene soon. Red-tinted Mars will rise first at about 4:50 a.m. local time, and the best viewing time for Mercury will be 6:30-7 a.m. local time.
The Geminids, December 4 to 16
The Geminids Meteor Shower, one of the most spectacular of the year, runs from December 4 to 16 annually, so you can begin to watch for them this week. This shower will peak Friday, December 13 to Saturday, December 14, when up to 120 meteors per hour are possible under dark sky conditions. But the full Moon in Gemini on the peak night will overwhelm the majority of the meteors for this shower in 2019, so catch a few now while the Moon is less intense.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.cato tour the universe.