Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, December 5, 2012. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:

The moon is full on Wednesday the 28th. On following nights, the moon is in waning gibbous phase until the 6th, when it reaches last-quarter phase. The moon’s rising time advances from 5:03 p.m. on the 28th to 10:25 p.m. on the 4th.

Brilliant planet Jupiter is the eye-catching object appearing next to the moon on Wednesday the 28th. While the moon appears to speed away from the planet’s vicinity on following nights, Jupiter remains behind in Taurus the Bull. The giant planet is visible all night, and is highest – nearly overhead – at midnight.  Through binoculars, the four largest of Jupiter’s moons – the Galilean satellites – are bright enough to see as star-like objects clustered around Jupiter. A telescope will show cloud belts and a variety of storms on the face of the planet.

The brightest planet, Venus, clears the east-southeast horizon at 4:30 a.m. The obvious, but dimmer object to the upper right of Venus is the planet Saturn. Through a telescope, Venus shows a gibbous phase, and Saturn shows its magnificent system of rings. At 6:00 a.m., binoculars will help you to find the planet Mercury in line with – and to the lower left of – Saturn and Venus, midway between Venus and the horizon. At sunrise, Venus might still be visible, 24 degrees high in the southeast.

The International Space Station will put on its best show over Los Angeles to early risers on Saturday, December 1. On that morning, the Space Station will cross the sky from northwest to southeast, emerging from earth’s shadow while 20 degrees high at 5:39 a.m. The ISS passes overhead, possibly outshining Venus, at 5:41 a.m., then approaches the horizon four minutes later.

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 five days a week–Wednesday through Sunday– through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes before 9:30 p.m. The next Griffith Observatory public star party, hosted by Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, is scheduled for Saturday, December 22.

From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at