December 2021 Skywatching
What’s up in the December 2021 night sky? Venus at its brightest, the famous Geminid meteor showers peak, and the winter solstice arrives! See Bob Berman’s Sky Watch for all the highlights.
Sky Watch December 2021
by Bob Berman, as featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac
The Bright Planets
- On the 1st, Venus, now at its most brilliant, stands a comfortable 16 degrees high as the constellations emerge in the late evening twilight.
- On December 3, Venus will reach its greatest illuminated extent. This means that Venus appears to be at its very brightest for the year. Look west, low in the sky after sunset.
- On the 6th, it hovers just above the two-day-old slender crescent Moon—a lovely sight in the evening sky.
- Also on the 6th, look for a planet bunch-up in the west after sunset: From lower right to upper left stand Venus, the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter. Watch the Moon sweep by the bright planets for some lovely pairings for the next few nights.
- The grouping remains on the 8th, with the crescent Moon now second from the top, below Jupiter, which moves back into Aquarius at midmonth.
- By the holidays (late December), Mercury, at a bright magnitude –0.5, will be visible, too, dangling below Venus from the 24th to the 31st. It will stand left of Venus from the 29th to the 31st. Look very near the horizon after sunset.
Bask in the Geminid Meteor Shower – 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 the night of December 13-14 (Monday night till dawn Tuesday).
On a dark night, free of moonlight, you can easily spot 50 or more meteors per hour. On an optimum night for the Geminids, it may even be possible to see up 100 meteors per hour.
When is best time to watch the Geminids? In 2021, the Moon will be shining above the horizon but Moon set is around 3:30 A.M. so the optimal timing is just before dawn on the morning of the 14th.
Prepare for the First Day of Winter (The Winter Solstice)
The solstice brings winter to the Northern Hemisphere on the 21st at 10:59 a.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 winter solstice.
Bundle Up for The Full Cold Moon
December’s full Moon rises in the evening of December 18, 11:37 P.M. Eastern time. 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.