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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

December 15: Auriga

Auriga is low in the east-northeast as night falls and climbs high across the sky later. It is marked by a pentagon of stars. It’s easy to pick out thanks to the brightest member of that figure, Capella, which is one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

December 14: Moon and Mars

Mars is in great view tonight. The Red Planet looks like a bright orange star just above the Moon as night falls. It will stand farther to the right of the Moon tomorrow evening.

December 13: Comet Wirtanen

Comet Wirtanen is streaking across Taurus, which is in the east at nightfall. It will pass between the bull’s “eye” — the star Aldebaran — and shoulder — the Pleiades star cluster. Under dark skies, the comet may be bright enough to see with the eye alone.

December 12: Dusty Display

The Geminid meteor shower is expected to be at its best over the next couple of nights. And the Moon sets early enough that it will allow the meteors to shine through. The shower is spawned by an asteroid, which sheds dust grains as it orbits the Sun.

December 11: Gemini

The constellation Gemini is in good view by about 8 p.m. It is best known for Castor and Pollux, the two bright stars that represent the heads of the twins. They are low in the east-northeast at that hour, with Castor above Pollux.

December 10: Stretching Out

Eridanus, the river, meanders across the southern sky at this time of year. It is one of the largest constellations, stretching almost 60 degrees. Its northern end is northwest of Rigel, the brightest star in Orion.

December 9: Milky Way

The Milky Way arches high overhead on December evenings. It outlines the disk of our home galaxy. At nightfall, it passes from the Northern Cross, in the west, to W-shaped Cassiopeia high in the northeast, to near the face of Taurus, the bull, in the east.