Status Report

The Sky This Week 2003 November 25 – December 4

By SpaceRef Editor
November 30, 2003
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The Moon waxes in the evening skies over the next two weeks. Look for her thin crescent low in the southwest on the 25th near bright Venus. First Quarter occurs on the 30th at 12:16 pm Eastern Standard Time. Look for Luna just below ruddy Mars on the evening of December 1st.

Brilliant Venus has finally begun her return engagement in the evening sky. The dazzling planet may be seen shortly after sunset just about 15 degrees up in the southwest, and over the course of the year’s last month she’ll seem to vault into the sky. Between November 28th and December 5th look for Mercury a few degrees below and to the right of Venus. The fleet planet will shine with just about the same apparent brightness as Mars, but he will wallow in twilight, so you’ll probably need binoculars to spot him. A flat western horizon and good clear late autumn skies should help you pick him out.

Ruddy Mars is now high-tailing it from the confines of the constellation Aquarius, where he’s spent most of the past several months. His motion from night to night is hard to detect, though, because of the dearth of bright stars in this part of the sky. However, if you look about 20 degrees above Mars you should see the Great Square of Pegasus, whose shape makes a handy reference for the red planet’s progress. On the evening of December 1st, the waxing gibbous Moon glides just 4 degrees below Mars, offering two tempting targets for small telescopes. You may even notice that Mars’ phase resembles that of our natural satellite!

By late evening Venus is gone, Mars has heeled over toward the west, and the eastern sky brightens with the rising stars of winter. Set in the middle of these beacons is Saturn, whose golden glow shines down from the center of Gemini. This is a banner year to observe the ringed planet, since he hasn’t been this close to us in some 30 years. His rings are tipped at close to their maximum value, so even a small telescope or tripod-mounted binoculars will show them. He’s enough to draw my attention from Mars these days.

Fans of the other giant planet Jupiter still have to wait for the morning hours to get a good look at him. He rises at around 1:00 am as the month opens, but by the end of the year he’ll start to draw attention in the late evening sky. For now the best time to view him is still before sunrise, but that’s often when the air is steadiest for telescopic perusal.

For information on BRIGHT SATELLITES passing over Washington, DC this week, click

For more information eclipses, click

For more information on meteor showers, click

For more information on observable comets, click

For pictures of Comet Hale-Bopp, click

For more information on the digital planet pictures on this page, click

SpaceRef staff editor.