NASA’s skywatching tips for December include a meteor shower

What’s On: December 2023 Skywatching Tips from NASA

NASA has shared its top picks for what to see in the night sky in the final month of the year.

Highlights include excellent views of the Moon along with various planets, a chance to see the peak of the Geminid meteor shower and a rare opportunity to see an asteroid fly past Earth.

moon and planets

Look for a crescent moon approaching the planet Venus and the bright star Spica between December 7 and 10.

A week later, on December 17, you’ll see the moon hanging just below Saturn for the first few hours after sunset. When viewed through a telescope, the Moon and the planet will appear in the same field of view. Additionally, NASA also suggests trying to see Saturn’s giant moon Titan as a faint dot right next to Saturn.

On December 21 and 22, the Moon appears close to Jupiter, which is easy to recognize as it is one of the brightest planets in the night sky.

meteor shower

A falling star shines in the night sky.
Pexels/Blue LaSalle

After November’s Leonid meteor shower, this month it’s the turn of the Geminids. It has been described by NASA as “the most reliable meteor shower of the year”, with skywatchers potentially able to see a meteor every minute.

The Geminids meteor shower peaks on the night of December 13 and the following morning. Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere can see meteors as early as 9 or 10 a.m. on December 13, with the greatest number of meteors seen in the sky between midnight and morning twilight.

Skywatchers in the Southern Hemisphere will also see the Geminids, but they will appear in the middle of the night and at about one-fourth the rate at which they are seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

small star

Last but not least, December offers a chance to see an asteroid pass Earth. NASA said there’s a chance you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye, although a pair of binoculars or a telescope will offer a better chance of tracking it.

NASA says that this month, asteroid Vesta can be seen from about 10 p.m. at night, although the best chance to see it will come around 1 or 2 a.m. when it will appear about halfway up in the eastern sky.

You’ll be able to see Vesta between Orion’s raised arm and Castor’s foot in Gemini. Around December 8, Vesta will be visible between Betelgeuse and Propus. Watch the NASA video at the top of this page for more information on how to track Vesta.

For further help understanding what you’re seeing in the night sky, be sure to try one of these astronomy apps for iOS and Android.

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