Photo: Bright Jupiter in Taurus
Image Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN)
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121127.html

That bright star you've recently noticed rising just after sunset isn't a star at all. It's Jupiter, the solar system's ruling gas giant. Bright Jupiter is nearing its December 3rd opposition when it will stand in Taurus, opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. Clearly outshining yellowish Aldebaran, alpha star of Taurus, Jupiter is centered in this skyview from November 14th, also featuring the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, familiar celestial sights as the northern hemisphere winter approaches. Sliding your cursor over the image will label the scene and identify two other solar system worlds approaching their opposition in December. Small and faint, asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres are about 10 degrees from Jupiter, near the left edge of the frame. Of course, you can imagine NASA's Dawn spacecraft in this field of view. Having left Vesta in September, Dawn's ion engine is now steadily driving it to match orbits with Ceres, scheduled to arrive there in February 2015.
Photo: Jupiter and Io
Image Credit & Copyright: Alessandro Bianconi
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121128.html

On December 3 (UT), Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet, will be at opposition, opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky, shining brightly and rising as the Sun sets. That configuration results in Jupiter's almost annual closest approach to planet Earth. So, near opposition the gas giant offers earthbound telescopes stunning views of its stormy, banded atmosphere and large Galilean moons. For example, this sharp series was recorded on the night of November 16/17 from the island of Sardinia near Dolianova, Italy. North is up in the images that show off Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot, and planet girdling dark belts and light zones. Also seen in transit is Jupiter's volcanic moon Io, its round, dark shadow tracking across the Jovian cloud tops as the sequence progresses left to right.
Photo: Super Moon vs. Micro Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Catalin Paduraru
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121129.html

Did you see the big, bright, beautiful Full Moon Wednesday night? That was actually a Micro Moon! On that night, the smallest Full Moon of 2012 reached its full phase only about 4 hours before apogee, the most distant point from Earth in the Moon's elliptical orbit. Of course, earlier this year on May 6, a Full Super Moon was near perigee, the closest point in its orbit. The relative apparent size of November 28's Micro Moon (right) is compared to the famous May 6 Super Moon in these two panels, matching telescopic images from Bucharest, Romania. The difference in apparent size represents a difference in distance of just under 50,000 kilometers between apogee and perigee, given the Moon's average distance of about 385,000 kilometers. How long do you have to wait to see another Full Micro Moon? Until January 16, 2014, when the lunar full phase will occur within about 3 hours of apogee.
Photo: Clouds in Cygnus
Credit & Copyright: Image Data - Bob Caton, Al Howard, Eric Zbinden, Rogelio Bernal Andreo;
Processing - Rogelio Bernal Andreo
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121130.html

Cosmic clouds of gas and dust drift across this magnificent mosaic covering a 12x12 degree field within the high flying constellation Cygnus. The collaborative skyscape, a combination of broad and narrow band image data presented in the Hubble palette, is anchored by bright, hot, supergiant star Deneb, below center near the left edge. Alpha star of Cygnus, Deneb, is the top of the Northern Cross asterism and is seen here next to the dark void known as the Northern Coal Sack. Below Deneb are the recognizable North America and Pelican nebulae (NGC 7000 and IC 5070). Another supergiant star, Sadr (Gamma Cygni) is near the center of the field just above the bright wings of the Butterfly Nebula. A line continuing up and right will encounter the more compact Crescent Nebula and finally the Tulip Nebula near the top of the frame. Most of these complex nebulosities are located about 2,000 light-years away. Along with the Sun, they lie in the Orion spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy.
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Super Moon vs. Micro Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Catalin Paduraru
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121129.html

Did you see the big, bright, beautiful Full Moon Wednesday night? That was actually a Micro Moon! On that night, the smallest Full Moon of 2012 reached its full phase only about 4 hours before apogee, the most distant point from Earth in the Moon's elliptical orbit. Of course, earlier this year on May 6, a Full Super Moon was near perigee, the closest point in its orbit. The relative apparent size of November 28's Micro Moon (right) is compared to the famous May 6 Super Moon in these two panels, matching telescopic images from Bucharest, Romania. The difference in apparent size represents a difference in distance of just under 50,000 kilometers between apogee and perigee, given the Moon's average distance of about 385,000 kilometers. How long do you have to wait to see another Full Micro Moon? Until January 16, 2014, when the lunar full phase will occur within about 3 hours of apogee.

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