The erstwhile planet Pluto has some company. Its largest moon Charon, which is almost half as wide as Pluto itself, was discovered in 1978. Two smaller moons, now called Hydra and Nix, were discovered in 2005. Then, in 2011 and 2012, images from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed two more moons, which are currently just known as P4 and P5. A list of possible names for the two satellites has been drawn up, and you can vote on your choices here–or, you can suggest names of your own.
Comet ISON has the potential to give a spectacular display, but the night-sky appearance of comets can be very difficult to predict. NASA posts this video about this year’s promising visit of Comet ISON:
Scientists need help searching through huge amounts of data from the Herschel and Spitzer space telescopes. The Milky Way Project allows anyone to search through images from the telescopes and help in the identification of structures in the images, something the human eye can do better than computers. To take part, go here.
While you are watching for Geminid meteors over the next few nights, take a look at the bright “star” shining in the northeast–which is the planet Jupiter. The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter reached opposition, the point when it is closest to Earth, on December 3rd, and will remain in good position for evening viewing for the next few months. Jupiter is easy to spot with the naked eye, but also rewards binocular or telescope viewing and is a great target for astronomy beginners. A pair of binoculars will show the planet’s four largest moons, and even a small telescope can show hints of Jupiter’s cloud belts. Take advantage of Jupiter’s current conventient timing and placing and take a look!