The moon was full on November 30th and will reach the third quarter point on December 5th. This week, the moon passes through the waning gibbous phase.

Where the planets are…

MERCURY has vanished within the morning twilight.

VENUS, the brightest planet, can still be seen low in the morning sky.

MARS is the southwestern evening sky object. The red planet lingers in our sky until mid-evening. Look for a star-like object with a distinct crimson hue.

JUPITER is the bright beacon with Gemini. This giant planet outshines all the night sky stars. Jupiter is the evening sky jewel… and will be high in the post midnight and pre-dawn sky.

SATURN, in Taurus the Bull, rises before Jupiter and can be seen low in the eastern sky soon after sunset. The ringed planet is that bright light with the v-shaped Hyades star

cluster that defines the bull’s triangular face.

EYE ON THE STAR:

Albireo (The Beguiling Pair)

Positioned high in the western early evening sky is Cygnus the Swan, otherwise known as the Northern Cross. Deneb, the brightest star in this constellation marks the northern cross tip. The southern tip is adorned by Albireo, a star that will warrant little notice by the casual star gazer.

However, like many objects in our sky, Albireo hides its secrets well.

Observe this star through a small telescope or even a set of binoculars and you’ll see not one, but two stars: one glows yellow while the other shimmers with a subtle sapphire radiance.

When you observe this binary star’s two components with the aid of optical equipment, you are “splitting Albireo,” meaning that you have resolved this system into its components.

COME OVER TO THE DARK SIDE

Question: Have humans ever observed the dark side of the moon?

Answer: No.

Question: Have robotic probes ever photographed the dark side of the moon?

answer: Not once.

Question: Will humans ever visit the dark side of the moon?

Answer: Never.

So, why has the dark side of the moon never been seen or photographed? Why will it never be visited?

Answer: Because the dark side of the moon doesn’t exist. It never has. During the course of one orbit, the moon does not show us part of its sphere: The unseen portion has often been called, The dark side of the moon, for it was assumed that this section was perpetually steeped in shadow.

This assumption was based on the belief that the moon doesn’t rotate. A non-rotating moon would necessarily keep part of its sphere away from the Sun and we earthlings would never observe it.

However, the moon DOES rotate fully. Moreover, it exposes all of its sections to sunlight. So, why don’t we see all of the moon’s features?

Simple: the moon’s rotational period is the same as its revolutionary period. This equivalence is known as synchronous rotation: As the moon revolves around Earth, it always keeps the same facade directed toward us.

Try a thought experiment: Paint a smiley face on a ball. Use somebody as a model for Earth. Direct the face toward that person. Next, turn the ball on its axis once for every time you complete an entire orbit around your model Earth. You will notice that the face always points toward the person you selected as your model.

This “dark side” is all illusion. And isn’t it amazing that in a universe which can fashion all manner of exotic phenomena, something as well known as the “dark side of the moon” doesn’t exist at all.

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