The full moon of December, called the Full Cold Moon, will arrive this week just before midnight CST on Wednesday, Dec. 11, and as it rises it will be joined in the sky by the planets Venus and Saturn, which will be close together after reaching a conjunction on Dec. 11.
The moon will be passing through the constellation Taurus, our planet’s satellite will rise around 3:18 pm. on Dec. 11. The sun sets about 10 minutes later, and observers looking west will see Saturn and Venus in the sky together only a few degrees apart, and Jupiter will be visible as well, though it is difficult to see as it will be just a degree above the horizon by 5 p.m. local time.
Unfortunately, as of now there will be scattered clouds that could obstruct the viewing of the moon across the Concho Valley.
The moon itself will be framed by Auriga, the charioteer, to its left (north) and the Hyades star cluster to the south (on the right). The Hyades usually defines the “head” of Taurus, though its fainter stars will be washed out by the lunar glare.
Planets to see
The two planets Venus and Saturn will be in conjunction — sharing the same celestial longitude and will get as close as 1.8 degrees, or a bit more than three lunar diameters, according to In-the-sky.org. Both will be in Sagittarius.
Jupiter will be approaching its superior conjunction, which occurs on Dec. 28. Superior conjunction is the point where the planet is on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. That means it is sinking into the solar glare at sunset through December.
Mars, by contrast, will be visible to observers who are up early (or have stayed up late). On Dec. 12 the Red Planet will rise at 3:20 a.m., while the sun doesn’t rise until 7:10 a.m. local time. So, early commuters can look east and see Mars a good 20 degrees above the southeastern horizon by 5:30 a.m., as the sky gets lighter.
Full moons are so bright that they tend to overwhelm fainter objects in the night sky, even from dark-sky locations. Indeed, the full moon casts distinct shadows. Even so, the winter sky offers some of the brightest constellations of the year.
Besides Auriga and Taurus, by about 9 p.m. local time on the night of Dec. 11, one can see Orion, the hunter and its distinctive belt of three stars to the right and downward, toward the south of the moon, and to the left Gemini’s brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, will also be evident. The brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere sky, Sirius, will also be rising and visible almost the entire night.
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