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Friday, November 27, 2015

EarthSky Tonight—December 17, Moon between Ram’s head and Pleiades

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Total lunar eclipse on December 20 or 21, depending on time zone

As seen from North America, the waxing gibbous moon will shine midway between the head of the constellation Aries the Ram and the Pleiades star cluster tonight.

The Pleiades star cluster shines to the east of the moon. Can you see the small dipper-shaped Pleiades cluster tonight in the moon’s glare? If not, try binoculars.

The moon moves about 13o eastward in front of the backdrop stars each day, so at this time tomorrow, you will see the moon much closer to the Pleaides cluster. For reference, the moon’s diameter equals 1/2o, and your fist at an arm length approximates 10o.

Pleiades: Famous Seven Sisters

In the world’s eastern hemisphere tonight, the moon will be located closer to the Ram’s head. Everywhere around the world, however, the moonlit glare will make it difficult to see the three stars that depict the Ram’s head: Hamal, Sheratan and most especially Mesarthim.

In Greek mythology, the god Mercury sent the Ram to save the children of the King of Thessaly from political intrigue. Phrixis and his sister Helles held on tight to the Ram’s Golden Fleece as the magical flying Ram swept them off for the safety of Colchis, an ancient country that once bordered the Black Sea.

That is tonight: the moon between the Aries the Ram’s head and the Pleiades star cluster!

Written by Bruce McClure

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

Universe Today

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Simostronomy Blog

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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