It’s been a jam-packed year of astro events, from last-chance eclipses to a history-making asteroid crash — and the fun’s not over yet as December’s meteor showers and planet sightings, Mars particularly, will end the year on a high note.
Even better: aurora-borealis activity is on the rise thanks to a flurry of storms and the sun’s powerful new solar cycle. Here’s where to see the northern lights for yourself.
Ready to stargaze?
Here are the best astro events of December, including where and when to see them.
December 8: Mars at Opposition
If a Mars sighting is on your bucket list, this is the month to make it happen. According to BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine, December 2022 promises the best Mars viewing until January 2025. There’s no better day than December 8, as Mars reaches opposition — when the red planet lies opposite the sun, close to Earth, and appears at its brightest. To see Mars in detail, you’ll need a telescope; binoculars will make Mars brighter and bigger, but most are not powerful enough for surface detail.
December 13 – 14: Geminid meteor shower peak
The year’s meteor shower extravaganza continues with the Geminid meteor shower, an event known for bright white and speedy meteors. According to EarthSky, the peak will hit overnight between December 13 and 14. At peak, with no moon and a dark sky, you could see up to 120 meteors per hour. While we will have a waning gibbous moon (which means it’s more than half illuminated) it’s still worth heading out; some shooting stars are bright enough to overcome the moon’s glow. Scout a dark-sky location with wide-open sky views for the best meteor shower odds.
December 21: December solstice
December 21 marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year. The annual event occurs when the sun hits its southernmost point in the sky, according to EarthSky. From this point on, those in the northern hemisphere will enjoy a subtle increase in daylight minutes every day until summer.
December 21 – 22: Ursid meteor shower peak
The Ursid Meteor Shower is a signature late-December stargazing event. The activity peaks overnight from December 22 to 23, but temper your expectations: The Ursids are notoriously mild. They produce up to five meteors per hour, according to Royal Museums Greenwich. The good news? This year’s Ursids occur during a new moon, which means it’s easier to see those shooting stars, especially in a dark-sky park with wide-open night-sky views.
December 28: Conjunction of Venus and Mercury
End the year with a stellar planet observation: the conjunction of Venus and Mercury. According to EarthSky, the planets will be only 1.5 degrees apart just after sunset on December 28 when Venus, the brighter planet will sit just below Mercury. The duo will appear toward the southwest horizon. Look up from the pair for yet another planet spotting: Saturn.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS
This story first appeared here.