You are here

In the Sky This Month

Mars shines at its most brilliant this month as it reaches opposition. The bright orange planet is in view all night. Venus and Mercury spend most of December huddled together in the evening twilight, with Mercury changing brightness significantly during the month. The stars of winter begin to take over the evening sky, with Orion climbing across the south, trailed by Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

December 8: Earliest Sunsets

The shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, is a couple of weeks away, but most of the United States is seeing the earliest sunsets of the year. The days are still getting shorter, though, because the Sun will continue to rise later until after the solstice.

December 9: Venus Rising

The planet Venus is returning to view. It’s quite low in the southwest in the early evening twilight and will climb a little higher each night throughout the month, beginning a long reign as the brilliant Evening Star.

December 10: Moon and Gemini

Pollux, the brighter twin star of Gemini, is close to the left of the Moon as they climb into view in mid-evening. The other twin, Castor, is above Pollux.

December 11: Moon at Apogee

The Moon will be farthest from Earth tonight for its current orbit, at a distance of almost 252,200 miles, which is more than 13,000 miles farther than average. That makes the Moon look a little smaller and fainter than average.

December 12: Geminid Meteors

The Geminid meteor shower is expected to be at its best tomorrow night, peaking before dawn on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the Moon will be in view then, washing out the fainter meteors. But many of the Geminids are fairly bright, so the shower is worth a look.

December 13: Moon and Regulus

The Moon climbs into good view by about 11 p.m. About two-thirds of the hemisphere that faces our way is in daylight, so it’s nice and bright. Regulus, the lead star of Leo, rises to the lower right of the Moon, and is below the Moon at first light.

December 14: Fading Eagle

Aquila, the eagle, is dropping from view in the west. Its brightest star, Altair, is about a third of the way up the west-southwestern sky at nightfall. It forms the lower left point of the Summer Triangle.

Full MoonFull December 7, 10:08 pm

Last quarterLast December 16, 2:56 am

New MoonNew December 23, 4:17 am

First QuarterFirst December 29, 7:21 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee December 11

Perigee December 24

The full Moon of December is known as the Long Night Moon or Moon Before Yule.