Stargazing: Jupiter returns to the evening sky

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A "changing of the guard" has taken place after sunset in the early evening sky. Since Saturn's disappearance in the western sky last month, dazzling bright Jupiter has returned to the eastern sky.

Jupiter now rises in the east-northeast about 9 p.m. The king of the planets sparkles at a dazzling bright --2.4 magnitude and can be seen about 10 degrees above the horizon by 10 p.m. The cream-colored gem will brighten, rise earlier and climb higher in the eastern sky each evening over the next two months until it goes into opposition with the sun on Jan. 4. The planet will then rise at sunset, shine in the sky all night long, then set with the sun.

Jupiter's orbit around the sun takes about 12 years, so it spends about a year in each constellation of the zodiac. Since its last evening sky appearance, Jupiter has moved about 30 degrees east along the ecliptic, taking it from Taurus and into Gemini, the Twins.

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