Sky Gazing in December

Here Are The Top Astronomy Events For December.

Winter is at its peak in the northern hemisphere and so is the elegance of the night sky. The winter constellations like The Orion, Aries, Taurus, Leo etc. have started rising early in the evening. Let us have a look at what the last month of 2018 has to offer.

December 4: Close Approach of Moon And Venus

Close approach of Venus and Moon
Moon and Venus will have a close encounter before sunrise on December 4. The image shows view over the Capital. (Image: Dominic Ford, In-The-Sky.org)

Venus and Moon will be within 3°37′ of each other on the fourth day of the month. The brightest planet will be visible in the early morning before sunrise. Venus will be at a magnitude of -4.6 and Moon will be at a magnitude of -10.5, in the constellation of Virgo. The pair will be too 
widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars. The moon will be 26 days old.

December 6: Close Approach of Moon and Mercury

Close approach of Moon and Mercury
Moon and Mercury at 6:15 IST over New Delhi. (Image: Dominic Ford, In-The-Sky)

After a close date with the Roman Goddess of Love, Moon is all set to have a close encounter with Mercury, passing 1°52′ to the north of Mercury. The Moon will be 28 days old. Moon will be at mag -8.6 and Mercury at mag 0.5, both in Libra. The pair will be difficult to observe as by the time it reaches fairly high over the horizon, it will be time for sunrise. However, if you do get to a place high enough early morning, you can see the duo with the naked eyes.

The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

December 7: Conjunction of Mars and Neptune

Close approach of Mars and Neptune
Looking South-West at 8:15 pm IST (Image: Dominic Ford, In-The-Sky)

The Roman God of War (Mars) and the Roman God of Sea (Neptune) will be just 0°02′ of each other in the evening of December 7, in Aquarius. This is one of the best event of the month. Mars will be at mag 0.1 and Neptune at 7.5. You can only see Mars with the naked eye. To observe Neptune, you’ll need a telescope. The duo will be close enough to fit in a telescope and binoculars. Don’t miss this one!

December 9: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn

Conjunction of Moon and Saturn
This event will be a little difficult to watch. (Image: Dominic Ford, In-The-Sky)

The Moon and Saturn will share the same right ascension, with the Moon passing 1°07′ to the north of Saturn. The Moon will be 2 days old. The pair will be difficult to observe as they will appear no higher than 14° above the horizon. They will become visible at around 17:39 (IST) as the dusk sky fades, 14° above your south-western horizon. They will then sink towards the horizon, setting 1 hour and 34 minutes after the Sun at 18:55. The Moon will be at mag -9.0, and Saturn at mag 0.4, both in Sagittarius.

The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

December 14: Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid Meteor Shower will peak on December 14

The Geminid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 14 December 2018. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 7 December to 16 December. The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 100 per hour. 
However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. The Moon will be 7 days old at the time of peak activity, presenting significant interference in the early evening sky.

December 15: Conjunction of Moon and Mars

Moon and Mars at 21:00 IST over the Capital. (Image: Dominic Ford, In-The-Sky)

The Moon and Mars will share the same right ascension, with the Moon passing 3°33′ to the south of Mars. The Moon will be 7 days old. The pair will be visible in the evening sky, becoming accessible at around 17:39 (IST) as the dusk sky fades, 55° above your southern horizon. They will then reach its highest point in the sky at 18:02, 56° above your southern horizon. They will continue to be observable until around 23:14, when they sink to 8° above your western horizon. The Moon will be at mag -11.7, and Mars at mag 0.2, both in Aquarius as shown.

December 22: The December Solstice 

22 December will be the shortest day of 2018 in the northern hemisphere, midwinter day. This is the day of the year when the Sun’s annual path through the constellations of the zodiac reaches its most southerly point in the sky, in the constellation of Capricornus at a declination of 23.5°S.

On this day, the Sun is above the horizon for the less time than on any other day of the year in the northern hemisphere. This is counted by astronomers to be the first day of winter.

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