"December's Days of Earliest Sunsets, Venus Reaches Greatest Brilliancy, and; Orion Announces the Coming of Winter"

Scheduled air date: 2002 Dec 02-08

The familiar winter constellation Orion—the Hunter—can be seen rising in the evening sky this time of year, marking the approach of Winter to the Northern Hemisphere.
(Shown mid-December at 8:00 PM for mid-Northern latitudes.)

The planet Venus reaches greatest brilliancy in the morning sky this week.  It is joined by the much fainter planet Mars and star Spica.
(Shown about an hour before sunrise this week for mid-Northern latitudes.)

Winter Solstice—the beginning of Winter—occurs in about three weeks (December 21st) for the Northern Hemisphere.
At this time, the Sun's path across the sky is at its lowest, or closest to the southern horizon, while the Moon's path is at its highest.

For comparison, the above shows the paths of the Sun and Moon across the sky at Summer Solstice—the beginning of Summer (June 21st).  Note that, relative to Winter Solstice, the Sun and Moon appear to have switched places.
(Positions shown at one-hour intervals for mid-Northern latitudes.  The Moon's symbol in the above illustrations is intended to show the Moon's path and not its phase.)

If you wish to view illustrations for other episodes, please see our Star Gazer Illustrated directory.

Illustrations on this page were created using TheSky Astronomy Software, an advanced desktop planetarium program designed for Windows.

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