This Week In Astronomy

Star Party Time
Take advantage of the dark skies provided by the New Moon on December 18th to plan a holiday stargazing party. Since the Moon’s bright glare won’t be an issue, this will be the best night of the month to chase after views of fainter objects like galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters.
Orion High in the Sky
Orion will be well-placed for backyard astronomers throughout December. Some of our favorite targets in or near Orion are:

M42, The Great Nebula in Orion: Visible as the middle star of Orion’s sword, this emission nebula looks amazing! Can you see the Trapezium Cluster, the 4-star system at the center of M42?

M78: Another, much fainter, emission nebula, M78, is located just left and above the left-most star in Orion’s belt.

NGC 2174/2175: A large emission patch – known as the Monkey Head nebula – and star cluster, this interesting complex is located near the top of Orion’s raised “hand”.

Best Binocular Targets
The glorious open star cluster M45, also known as the Pleiades, will be nearly overhead in the constellation Perseus. A little more north and overhead you’ll find the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Slightly to the northwest of M31 you’ll see the beautiful Double Cluster of Perseus.