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Sunday, November 30

Sky Report

This is my favorite time of the year for stargazing... and even if you don't have a telescope, there are wonderful things to see if you have clear skies. Have you noticed Jupiter and Venus in the southwestern sky right after dark? You can't miss it.

From The Sky Report:
This week brings the climax to the pairing of the brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, in the evening sky. This spectacle is best seen at about 6:00 p.m., when the two planets are about 17 degrees above the southwest horizon. Jupiter is nearly 5 degrees to the upper left of brighter Venus on Wednesday night, the 26th. They continue to draw closer until they reach conjunction, their closest approach to each other, on Sunday night, November 30. The planets are then separated by just over two degrees. The grouping is made even more spectacular by the presence of the slender crescent moon, just 7 degrees below the planets. This trio will be at their most attractive on the next night, Monday, December 3, with Jupiter 2.2 degrees to the right of Venus, and the moon only 4 degrees to the upper right of the pair. On following nights, Jupiter will appear farther from Venus, moving down and to the right. The planets set at about 7:40 p.m.

This conjunction is simply a chance alignment of objects separated by tens and hundreds of millions of miles—they are not actually close to each other in space. At the time of the conjunction, the moon is about 240,000 miles from us, Venus is the same distance from us as the sun, 93 million miles, and Jupiter is about as far away as it can be from us, 539 million miles.

Later at night, the brightest star of the night time sky, Sirius, in Canis Major the Big Dog, sparkles 40 degrees high in the south at 2:00 a.m. Located to the south east of the belt of Orion, Sirius rises in the south east just before 9 p.m., and is low in the south west before dawn.

Saturn, in Leo the Lion, rises in the east half an hour after midnight, and is well placed for telescopic viewing in the south east in the early morning hours, attaining a height of 54 degrees above the horizon when dawn starts at 5:11 a.m. The planet is now providing the best views of its nearly edge-on rings that will be visible until the year 2025.

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