December Skies: Meteor Showers, Planets Aligning, and New Year's Full Moon
2020 has been one hell of a rough ride. We’ve lost count of all the terrible things that have plagued (pun intended) us this year, and when things got too much, we did what many star-lovers did: We looked up, and let the cosmos distract us for a few minutes.
To end this year on a high note, December will usher in massive astronomical events that you need to to add to your calendars:
- December 14 - Geminids Peak
- December 22 - Ursids Peak
Two meteor showers will mark the yearend, starting with the Geminid meteor shower from December 4 to 17, which will reach hits peak rate of meteors on December 14. The best time to see the Geminids meteor shower will be after 7 p.m. until dawn.
Meanwhile, the Ursids meteor shower will take place from December 17 to 26, and the best time to view it will be just after dusk.
- December 13 - Moon-Venus Conjunction
- December 17 - Moon-Jupiter Conjunction
- December 17 - Moon-Saturn Conjunction
- December 22 - Saturn-Jupiter Conjunction
- December 24 - Moon-Mars Conjunction
“Conjunctions” refer to when the moon and planets are visible in the same sky. From afar, it might look like another star, but it could actually be a planet in the universe that just happened to be visible on that starry night.
A super cool thing about one of the conjunctions this December? The Saturn-Jupiter conjunction will be the first since 2000. Called the Great Conjunction, the galaxy's two biggest planets are rarely so close to each other. The next one will happen in 2040, so make sure to catch this year's Great Conjunction. It'll be a great story for the kids one day.
- December 30 - Last Full Moon of 2020
To end the year on a high note, with hope of a new start with brighter fortunes, 2020 will end with a full moon high in the sky on December 30. It’s not exactly New Year’s Eve, but it’s close enough and we’re all desperate for good omens at this point.
A Total Eclipse—But Not In Our Area
Unless you plan to fly to Chile this month, you won’t be able to enjoy the total solar eclipse scheduled for December 15. Stargazers in South America and the South Pacific will be luckier, as the moon-sun-earth alignment will take place from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. PST. Too bad we won’t be able to see it in the Philippines.