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Jupiter, Taurus, and Orion Tonight, December 4, 2012

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Just one day after opposition, Jupiter climbs higher into a clear eastern sky in this 30-second image as seen from the Chicago area. Jupiter is in front of the stars of Taurus the bull, marked by its bright star Aldebaran. This bright star seems to be part of a widely, spread star cluster (Hyades), although it is separate from the cluster. Higher in the sky is the Pleiades star cluster. It is more compact than the Hyades and resembles a tiny dipper. Both clusters are best explored with binoculars. The Hyades cluster components are distinctly yellow-white while the Pleiades has blue-white stars. At the binoculars’ low power, 10-12 stars are easily counted in the Pleiades.

The bull’s horns (Zeta Tauri and Elnath) are visible in this image as well as Capella (Auriga).

Orion is located near the horizon to the lower right of Jupiter and Taurus. Orion is easily located because of three stars of equal brightness that line up in a short row. These represent Orion’s belt. One of the hunter’s shoulder is marked by reddish Betelgeuse. Rigel marks one knee. A sword hangs from Orion’s belt and the middle star is the famous Orion Nebula, marked on the image above with the yellow arrow. Investigate star color and the nebula with binoculars. The colors are noticeable with optical aid and the nebula has a cloudy appearance.

For our monthly sky watching posting, click here.

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