December Guide to the Bright Planets
Here is the Sky Watch for the December 2019 night sky. This month brings a Venus–Saturn conjunction, Geminid meteor shower, winter solstice, and full Cold Moon. See astronomer Bob Berman’s guide to the bright planets and more.
Sky Watch December 2019
by Bob Berman, as featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Watch for These Bright Planets
The year ends with a planetary whimper. All of the superior planets are on the far side of the Sun, near their dimmest and further diminished by solar glare.
Several farewell conjunctions provide compensation:
- On the 1st, low in the west at evening twilight, float Jupiter (highest), Venus, Saturn, and the crescent Moon. The planets congregate to say “goodbye” to Jupiter and Saturn as they fade away for the rest of the calendar year. Venus begins to ascend higher each evening, ascending in the west, to reign as the evening star.
- Venus meets Saturn on the 10th and 11th. The two planets appear to hover just 2 degrees apart in the southwestern sky after sunset.
- Meanwhile, Mars rises a bit higher as a predawn morning star, but it’s still low in the east and shines at a mere magnitude 2.
Bask in the Geminid Meteor Shower – Friday, December 13
- Often the most active meteor shower of the year, the Geminids occur annually in early to mid-December. This year, they will peak on Friday, December 13. One great thing about the Geminids is that they can be seen all night long, though they really ramp up around 9 p.m. and peak around 2 a.m. Note, however, that the Geminids will likely be washed out to some extent by the bright Moon, which will have been full just one night prior. For the best viewing experience, go out when the Moon is low in the sky and face away from its shining surface. In any case, the Geminids are worth a venture outdoors. Here is more information about the famous Geminids.
Prepare for the First Day of Winter (The Winter Solstice)
- Winter begins with the solstice on December 21 at 11:19 P.M. The winter solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical season of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and is the day with the fewest hours of daylight in the entire year. Read more about the solstice.
Bundle Up for The Full Cold Moon
- December’s full Moon rises in the evening of Wednesday, December 11, reaching peak fullness at 12:12 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, December 12. Expect it to be visible in the sky just before sunset on the 11th.
- As a herald of the winter season and its frigid weather, this full Moon has traditionally been called the Full Cold Moon. Learn more about the Full Cold Moon.
Go to the Almanac rise/set calculator to find out when the Moon and planets rise and set in your sky.