On the next clear evening near 7:15 PM, crossing the zenith you’ll perhaps find the Andromeda Galaxy, the most distant object viewable with the un-aided eye, but quite a challenge. Binoculars will help, and show a bit more, but its distance of 2.5 million light years means only special photography can reveal some of its details.

This evening’s sunset is the earliest of the year. Although mornings will continue to arrive a few minutes later through the end of the month, the evenings will start, almost imperceptibly, to extend just a minute to two longer. The balance between them still leaves December 21st as the shortest daylight hours of the year.

Our dark, moonless evenings this week are ideal for viewing the signature “w” shape of the constellation Cassiopeia, the Queen, surrounded by the star fields of the Milky Way, due north at 7:15 PM EST, and nearly at the top of the sky. The Queen always appears on the opposite side of the North Star from the Big Dipper, very low this evening in the north.