This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, December 2nd and Thursday, December 3rd written by Louis Suarato
On December 2, 1995, NASA launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, better known as SOHO. The development of SOHO was brought about by an international collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, or ESA. SOHO was designed to provide data from the Sun’s deep core to outer corona and solar wind. In addition to providing spectacular images and videos of sunspots, filaments, prominences, and coronal mass ejections for the last 20 years, SOHO has revolutionized the ability to forecast space weather, providing up to a three day warning of Earth-directed disturbances, and playing a lead role in the early warning system for systems and instruments that may be affected by space weather.
Sunset occurs at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, providing 9 hours and 16 minutes and 4 seconds of sunlight for the day. Although this weekend will have the earliest sunset of the year at 4:21 p.m., the shortest amount of daylight will occur on December 21st and 22nd at 9 hours and 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
By 6 p.m., the constellation Taurus, with its brightest star, Aldebaran, and Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, is already above the eastern Horizon. Taurus is followed by Orion, which can be viewed in full after 8 p.m., with its brightest stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, and great Orion nebula at the middle of its sword hanging from the Hunter’s belt.
Jupiter rises about 20 minutes after midnight in the constellation Virgo, just 3 degrees above the Last Quarter Moon, which occurs at 2:41 a.m. Thursday. The Moon sets at 12:14 Thursday afternoon. Friday, before dawn, the 30% illuminated, waning crescent Moon and Jupiter will be within 2 degrees. Binoculars or a small telescope should capture both the Moon and Jupiter in the same field of view. It also may be a good opportunity to view Jupiter during daylight hours, using the Moon to find the planet. Mars rises at a few minutes after 2 a.m., followed by Venus an hour and half later. Look about 8 degrees to the lower left of Venus for Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina. Recent reports indicated Comet Catalina is now displaying two tails. Estimates for the comet’s current magnitude range from 7.6 to 6.