Ready for a challenge?

Grab a pair a binoculars and look for the moon, which will be very thin and very low, just above the western horizon, about 8 tonight. A little higher is fleeting Mercury, which is currently in the evening sky after sunset.

You’ll need a clear sky and an unobstructed horizon to find them. Mercury will only be 12 degrees above the horizon, and the moon even lower. Scan with binoculars but be comforted by the fact that the moon will be higher and brighter Friday night when it will be just to the left (south) of Mercury after sunset.

In any event, we can always fall back on mighty Jupiter for viewing. Jupiter is visible in the brightest skies as it is exceeded in brightness only by the sun, moon and Venus.

Around 8 p.m. Jupiter will be nearly 30 degrees above the western horizon. Above Jupiter you should be able to find Castor (to the right) and Pollux (to the left), the “twins” in Gemini the Twins. To the left (south) of Jupiter is Procyon in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. Canis Minor and Gemini are traditional winter evening objects saying goodbye to us for a while.

If you have a hard time finding these sights, scout around a bit with your binoculars. Jupiter is bright enough to see with the naked eye even when it is low on the horizon. Through a telescope or tripod-mounted higher-power binoculars, its four brightest moons and its cloud belts are superb.

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