This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through December 7th, 2016. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The brightest planet, Venus, blazes in the southwest sky starting at sunset. About half an hour after sunset, look for the orange planet Mars. Mars is located to the upper left of Venus, about 30 degrees above the south-southwest horizon. At the same time, the innermost planet, Mercury, is visible to the lower right of Venus, close to the west-southwest horizon. The crescent Moon passes 11 degrees above Mercury on December 1st, poses near Venus on the 2nd and 3rd, and appears to the right of Mars on the 4th.
The waxing Moon is first quarter on the morning of December 7th. Use binoculars or a telescope to see the various lunar features that are revealed as more and more of the moon is illuminated night by night. The moon sets at 6:04 p.m. on November 30, and at 11:34 p.m. on December 6th.
The planet Jupiter, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, is eye-catching in the eastern sky after it rises at about 2:30 a.m. Use binoculars to see Jupiter’s four largest moons. A telescope will show the bands of dark belts and bright zones of clouds across the face of the planet, arranged parallel to Jupiter’s equator.
The International Space Station appears over Los Angeles on Wednesday evening, November 30. It will be second in brightness only to Venus as it crosses the sky from the south-southwest to the east-northeast between 5:09 and 5:17 p.m. The ISS will be highest, 38 degrees above the southeast horizon, at 5:14 p.m.
Free views of the Sun during the day and of the Moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, December 10th.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.