The moon is waxing this week. Already past first quarter, it's high in the east at sunset and lights the cold winter nights until well after midnight.
Most of us are going to be watching the moon from our windows, but a few hardy souls may want to bundle up and venture outside to catch the Geminid meteor showers. One of the best meteor showers of the year, the Geminids are so-named since they appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. Because of this year's waxing gibbous moon, the best time to see this dazzling display may be between moonset and sunrise. Astronomers say that the peak viewing for this year's showers is Friday evening until Saturday morning, but if you have the impulse to get outside any of the next few nights, you're likely to see at least one shooting star blazing across the celestial sphere.
In addition to hosting the meteor shower, Gemini has also been the location to spot Jupiter during these past few months. Since October, Jupiter has been rising before midnight, a bright prominence in our evening sky. Having begun its retrograde motion in November, our solar system's biggest planet tracks its way back through Gemini until March 2014. By July it will conjunct the Sun and by mid-August will begin appearing in the early morning sky paired with Venus amid the constellation Cancer.
If you're not sure where Gemini or Jupiter are in the night sky, wait until the day after the full moon. This year's Long Night's Moon occurs in Taurus early in the morning on December 17. When the moon rises on December 18, the waning gibbous moon will be exceptionally close to Jupiter and Castor and Pollux, the twinned stars of Gemini.