As the calendar flips to a new year, the night sky brims with bright stars, planets, and a potential meteor shower to help you celebrate.
Crescent Venus, ever thinner and lower in twilight, dives toward the Sun. Jupiter and Saturn bide their time. The bright winter constellations fill the east after dark. Mars and Antares pair up at dawn.
Dramatic Venus is becoming a dramatically thinner, larger crescent the southwestern twilight. A few people can even resolve the crescent naked-eye. Saturn and Jupiter stay lined up behind it. And the bright winter constellations officially come into their own with the turning of the solstice.
Comet Leonard switches from low in the dawn to low in the dusk this week; you'll need those binocs. The Venus-Saturn-Jupiter line slides westward. And the high full moon of December rides across the sky in Taurus, at the top of the ecliptic.
While the Jupiter-Saturn-Venus line keeps shrinking, all kinds of deep-sky sights, naked-eye to telescopic, show themselves on these moonless evenings.
Orion now rises in the east around 8 p.m. Will Betelgeuse or Rigel be the first of his bright stars to come up? That depends on your latitude; Los Angeles and Atlanta are balance points. The Pleiades and Aldebaran watch this scene from high above.
The moonless evenings this week offer three bright planets and deep-sky riches as deep as you can go. Meanwhile, the waning crescent Moon meets Mercury and Spica low in bright dawn.
Venus shines in twilight; watch Antares and the head of Scorpius slide toward it. Check out Jupiter, and hop from Saturn to two binocular double stars. The evenings are dark for deep-sky observing; the waning Moon crosses Leo before dawn.
Jupiter and Saturn shine in the south-southeast at dusk, Venus low in the southwest. They're all close to the ecliptic, so a straight line from Jupiter through Saturn points almost exactly to Venus. Don't believe it? Stretch a string tightly between your hands wide apart, hold it up to the three planets, and see for yourself!