On Wednesday morning – December 2, 2015 – the bright star right next to the moon is Regulus in the constellation Leo. And the very bright object nearby is a planet, Jupiter. The moon will be sweeping through Leo, near Jupiter in the next several mornings.
Do you have to get up early to see the moon and Jupiter? Though our chart shows the hours before sunup, Jupiter is up long before that. Its exact rising time depends on your latitude and longitude, but, generally speaking, Jupiter will be well over your horizon by 1-2 a.m. – that’s local time, the time on your clock, no matter where you are.
The star Regulus – and the moon – are above the eastern horizon even earlier on this date. If you stay up until very late evening on December 1 or 2, you might see the moon and the Leo star Regulus climbing over the eastern horizon before your bedtime.
Still, if you want to see Jupiter well – and maybe glimpse its moons through binoculars – you’re better off waking up early and looking in the predawn sky. The moon and Jupiter and the constellation Leo will be higher in the sky and easier to see at that hour.
That’s not the only reason to get up early, however. You can see two more planets – Venus and Mars. See the sky chart below.
Plus, you can see sparkling blue-white Spica, the constellation Virgo’s brightest star.
Before dawn on December 2, use the moon to find Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo. Then draw an imaginary line from Regulus, a key star of the Zodiac, through Jupiter to locate the planets Mars and Venus. Close to Venus is the star Spica, another key star of the Zodiac.
Bottom line: The predawn sky throughout the first week of December, 2015, offers fine views of the moon and planets. On the morning of December 2, the moon pairs up with Regulus, the constellation Leo’s brightest star. Jupiter will be the much-brighter object shining nearby.