Later this evening in the western skies, the constellation Cygnus, the Swan is low in the northwest about 9:45 PM. It is also called the Northern Cross, in part a reference to the Southern Cross – a bright constellation seen only from the tropics southward. The brightest star in the group is at the top of the cross, known as Deneb, which means “the tail” of the Swan in Arabic.
Late tonight, the Leonid Meteor Shower peaks, at a rate of 10 to 15 meteors per hour, under ideal viewing. The waning Moon, just a day after its Last Quarter, will interfere with the fainter meteors. Fortunately, some of the meteors feature bright heads, with a tail. In additional a few outbursts are possible from previous passages of its parent comet, Temple-Tuttle, over the next few nights.
Just as the clock strikes midnight, our planetary cousin Mars passes behind the Sun from our vantage point, though it has been too close to the Sun to view for months. Mars remains in the Sun’s glare through the winter, and only slowly emerges from the twilight next spring. It won’t be until a year from now that Mars appears as a prominent object.