Meteor shower, planetary displays on tap for local skies

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If clouds don't interfere, people will have some great December views of four planets, the moon and a meteor shower.

Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet, is visible in the eastern sky about an hour after sunset. During the night, it will move westward. A view through a small telescope will show Jupiter's disk and as many as four of its largest satellites, said the Vancouver Sidewalk Astronomers.

On Monday, about an hour before sunrise, Saturn will appear as a moderately bright "star" near the crescent moon. A view from a small telescope will show a tiny-but-recognizable rings. Below Saturn will be Venus, our sky's brightest planet.

On Tuesday morning, the crescent moon will appear very close to Venus. Mercury can be first spotted about an hour before sunrise. Draw an imaginary line from Saturn down to Venus, then a much shorter line down to spot Mercury. If haze or thin clouds are present, binoculars might help in spotting the objects.

The Geminid meteor shower will peak Thursday evening and Friday morning. The best times to look are between about 10 p.m. and dawn but some "shooting stars" could appear when twilight turns to night. The meteors will appear to originate near the stars Castor and Pollux in the Gemini constellation.