Sky Watching: Planets, Meteor Showers, Supermoon and More This December
Calling all sky watchers! Stunning astronomical events are set to grace the December night skies.
This month will feature a magnificent supermoon, planets meeting up with the Moon, and back-to-back meteor showers.
Moon and Planets
On Dec. 3, a crescent moon joined Venus in the night sky, which appeared as a bright star, Daily Mail reports. The planet was seen directly below the moon about an hour after sunset. On Dec. 4, the moon teamed up with Mars, positioning less than three degrees apart from the Red Planet.
On the morning of Dec. 22, a crescent moon will rendezvous with Jupiter in the pre-dawn sky. According to Space.com, the waning crescent moon will be less than five degrees west of Jupiter and both celestial objects will be visible to the naked eyes.
As December ends, Saturn will be sitting low in the southeastern sky before dawn. On Dec. 27, the old crescent moon will position itself five degrees to the northwest of the planet.
The moon will be in its first quarter phase on Dec. 7. At the first quarter, one-half of the moon will be illuminated by the sun due to the positions of the Earth, sun and the moon. According to Space.com, the moon's bright half is on the western (right) side toward the setting sun. It will rise around noontime and sets around midnight, so the moon is visible half the time by day, during the afternoon, and the other half at night.
Another supermoon will illuminate the skies on Dec. 13. Also known as Oak Moon, Cold Moon or Long Nights Moon, the moon will appear slightly larger and brighter (hence, being referred to as supermoon) and will shine in or near the stars of the constellation Taurus, Space.com reports.
The Geminids meteor shower is one of the most anticipated events every year and will peak on the evening of Dec. 14. However, the moon will be full on the peak evening and might spoil the meteor show. According to Daily Mail, Geminid meteors travel fairly slow at around 22 miles (35 kilometers) per second.
In case the supermoon will outshine the Geminid meteor shower, stargazers may still have a chance at a spectacular show. The Ursid meteor shower will peak in the early morning hours of Dec. 22 and feature about 10 meteors per hour, Coastal Review reports.