Jupiter, Taurus, and Orion Tonight, December 11, 2012


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After this morning’s grouping of planets and the moon, clear skies prevailed throughout the day and into the evening. The 30-second image above was made at 8:30 p.m. CST from the Chicago area.  (Click the image to see it larger.)

In the eastern sky bright Jupiter gleams in front of the stars of Taurus with its brightest star Aldebaran nearby. Jupiter is slowing moving backward as compared to its normal apparent motion. Tonight Jupiter and Aldebaran are separated by about 5 degrees. The bull’s horns are marked Elnath and Zeta Tauri.

Two bright star clusters appear in the image. The Pleiades is a bright relatively compact clusters composed of blue-white stars while the Hyades clusters has stars that are more widely spread and resemble a check mark. Look at them through binoculars to see the contrast in star color.

The Orion Nebula, a star forming region, is a third binocular target. It is in Orion’s sword. The three stars of nearly equal brightness make his belt with Betelgeuse at one shoulder and Rigel at a knee. Binoculars will reveal the contrast of star color between these two stars.

For our monthly sky watching posting, click here.

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