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.

The Geminid Meteor shower reaches its peak overnight tonight. This is the year’s most prolific displays of meteors, producing over 100 shooting stars per hour. The thin, waxing Crescent Moon will set early, while the Twins of Gemini are one third of the way up by 9 o’clock, which means the meteors are active all night long.

The view to the southeast is quite impressive by 9:00 PM this evening. Low above the horizon, the Dog stars Procyon on the left and a bit higher, and Sirius much brighter on the right, are featured with Orion above them. Meanwhile, the rusty orange planet Mars teams up with the orange-red star Aldebaran, quite high in the southwest.