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Earthsky Tonight – Dec 26 2009, Moon near Ram’s head on December 26

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
www.EarthSky.org [1]

Night Sky, December 26, 2009
Night Sky, December 26, 2009

As seen from North America, the waxing gibbous moon will shine right below the head of the constellation Aries the Ram this evening. So it’ll be easy to locate the Ram’s head, but the moonlit glare will make it difficult to see the 3 stars that depict the head: Hamal, Sheratan and Mesarthim. Mesarthim will be especially hard to see.

This evening, the Pleiades star cluster shines nearly 30 degrees to the east (or left) of the moon. (The width of your fist at an arm length from your eye spans about 10 degrees of sky.) Can you see the small dipper-shape Pleiades cluster about three fist-widths from the moon tonight? If not, try binoculars. Although the moon’s position in front of the backdrop stars changes daily, the Pleiades cluster and Aries’ starlit bust always remain the same distance apart.

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.

Written by Bruce McClure