In this image, the Full Snow (or Frost) Moon has been climbing above the horizon since 4:41 p.m. Orion is just beginning to rise. Orion will appear earlier every night going forward, e.g. it rises at 6 p.m. on the 13th. See Jupiter set in the southwest at 7:46 tonight. The red arc represents the Milky Way. Image: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight

EYES TO THE SKY: Full Snow Moon rises this afternoon, winter stars follow, planets delight

During the long nights that precede the arrival of astronomical winter on Dec. 21, we have the opportunity to observe the celestial harbinger of the new season, the constellation Orion, in both the darkness of night and pre-dawn sky.

November 30 – December 13, 2020

Mount Washington — The Full Snow Moon rises above the east-northeast horizon this afternoon at 4:41 p.m., nearly simultaneous with sunset in the southwest at 4:22 p.m. In hilly terrain, plan for a delay in the moon’s appearance and expect the sun to disappear earlier than from horizon views. See moonrise about an hour later every evening and sunset remaining within seconds of 4:22 p.m. until after winter solstice.

Mornings, awake to the intriguing spectacle of moonset in the west-northwest as the sun rises in the southeast. Tomorrow, sunrise is at 7:03 a.m. The great white orb of the moon will be visible in the daylight blue sky until 8:10 a.m. tomorrow. See the moon higher and longer in the morning sky – in waning gibbous phase – every day this week. The sun rises about a minute later everyday through the 26th: Sunrise is at 7:14 on 13th.

During the long nights that precede the arrival of astronomical winter on December 21, we have the opportunity to observe the celestial harbinger of the new season, the constellation Orion, in both the darkness of night and pre-dawn sky. See the sky view diagram, above, that shows the figure of Orion rising into the nighttime sky within a few hours of sunset and, below, the iconic constellation setting in the pre-dawn sky. For best view of the diagrams, increase light on computer screen.

Dec. 1 at 6 a.m. Sunrise is at 7:02 a.m. Skyview similar through the 13th. Differences: the phase and position of the moon change; Orion, Sirius and Taurus set about 4 minutes earlier every day. On Dec. 13, those stars set around 5 a.m. Image: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight

From brilliant planet Venus in the southeast to the moon in the west, the brightest stars in the diagram will be visible until about 6:15 a.m. To see the dimmer stars that compose the constellations, observe by around 6 a.m. To experience the Geminid meteor shower overnight on the 13th-14th requires a special foray sometime during the hours between 2 and 5 a.m. On the diagram, find the shower radiant, the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, between Leo and the moon.

Glancing back to the diagram of the evening sky, notice burnished gold Mars in the southeast midway between the rising moon in the east and Saturn, .64m, and Jupiter, -1.98m, in the southwest. Jupiter sets at 7:45 this evening, close to 7 p.m. on the 13th. Saturn follows Jupiter. Observe the two planets as they appear closer to each other every night.

Protect the night by using artificial lights considerately and consider joining the International Dark Sky Association.