This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the three-week-long period ending Wednesday, December 3, 2014. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
The orange planet Mars is as bright as a first-magnitude star and appears in Sagittarius the Archer. It can be found about 20 degrees above the west-southwest horizon when darkness falls, and sets two hours later. The crescent moon poses 7 degrees to the right of Mars on the evening of November 25.
Brilliant yellow planet Jupiter is in Leo the Lion. It is low in the eastern sky shortly after midnight. The time of its transit (the time that it is highest, 70 degrees above the southern horizon) advances from 6:00 a.m. on November 12 to 4:45 a.m. on December 3. Through binoculars, Jupiter’s four largest moons appear as faint stars crowded near the planet. Jupiter’s constantly changing cloud features and rapid rotation make the planet a fascinating target for a telescope. The last-quarter moon appears 4 degrees south of Jupiter on Friday morning, November 14.
The Leonid meteor shower should reach its modest peak of about 10 meteors per hour on the morning of November 17th, or on the following morning, depending on which meteor expert one consults. The shower can be observed on both mornings between midnight and dawn, with the greatest activity closest to dawn (5:00 a.m.). The slender crescent moon rises at 1:47 a.m. on the 17th and 2:42 a.m. on the 18th, but should not be bright enough to seriously interfere with observations from dark-sky locations.
The moon is new on the morning of November 22, and becomes visible as a waxing crescent on the evening of the 23rd. It reaches first quarter phase on the 29th, and is gibbous through December 3rd.
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 our schedule. The next 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 27.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com after December 2nd.