by Robert Wilkinson
Christmas Eve begins a fairly spectacular series of early evening skies lasting for a week. Mercury is now far enough away from the Sun to be visible, conjunct Jupiter in the early evening skies here in the Northern Hemisphere, with Venus just above them conjunct invisible Neptune in Aquarius. They are clearly visible in the early evening skies if there are no clouds. The next 7 days features even more incredible sights.
It's currently an "old Moon," just before the New Moon. Therefore there will not be much light after sunset. However, for you early risers with a good view, you may be able to see the Moon conjunct Mars on the Eastern horizon just before daybreak on Christmas morning or Boxing day, depending on visibility.
Back to the evening light show. Mercury conjunct Jupiter will be very visible for at least the next week and a half, well into January's Mercury retrograde, since the Sun is still far enough away from Jupiter to make them both very visible in the early evening skies. However, from December 28 through New Year's Eve, we have an incredible starry alignment in the western horizon just after sunset!
December 28 features Moon conjunct Mercury and Jupiter with Venus hanging just above them. December 29 finds the Moon in early Aquarius, falling between the Mercury-Jupiter conjunction in Capricorn and Venus conjunct Chiron and Neptune just above it, while December 30 shows the Moon well into Aquarius forming a conjunction with Venus, a 4 "star" sequence that should be beautiful!
December 31 finds Jupiter closest to the horizon, followed a little higher on the horizon by Mercury, this followed by Venus even higher and topped off by the Moon in early Pisces. If you're into photography, this sunset alignment by the Moon with three planets should be quite striking.
Mercury and Jupiter will soon be obscured by their conjunctions with the Sun, but as the months go on we will be able to see Mars very clearly in the morning sky. Venus will continue to be an "evening star" for the next few months, but by mid-February 2009, early risers will get a rare treat of seeing Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter all in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
Feb 21-23 will be exceptionally special, due to Moon in Aquarius conjuncting Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars on the Eastern horizon before daybreak, so check it out! As with New Year's Eve, photographers will find some great photos due to this Moon conjunct three planets as the Sun begins to break the horizon. Obviously where you are on Earth will determine when these things happen, but in any case, whether you're into photography or not, enjoy, since this is a very special time with some very special alignments!
© Copyright 2008 Robert Wilkinson