Skywatch

6th – 13th December 2021

6-8 December: Moon & Planet Conjunctions

The waxing crescent Moon will appear near Venus on the evening of 6 December, Saturn on the 7th and Jupiter on 8th.

6-13 December: Geminid Meteor Shower

Unlike earlier in the month, moonlight will cause problems for night-sky enthusiasts in mid-December, when the waxing gibbous moon will brighten the sky and hamper observing of this year’s Geminid meteor shower, which reaches maximum on the night of 13/14 December. The emanation point of these meteors is near the bright star Castor in Gemini (hence the name Geminids), rising from the east-northeast as evening twilight ends. It will be well placed in the northwestern sky when the moon sets with the morning twilight not interfering until about 6 a.m. During this window of darkness, nocturnal observers with clear, dark skies may see perhaps as many as one slow-moving fireball (meteor) per minute. This meteor shower is expected to be active until 17 December, with a fairly broad peak, so with decent viewing conditions, you have a good chance of seeing some meteors at some point in the mornings before and after the peak.

12 December: Comet Leonard

On 12 December, Comet Leonard will pass within 34.9 million km of Earth. Not quite the stuff of the movie Armageddon but quite close in astronomical terms! (So what if I’ve spelt Armageddon incorrectly – it’s not the end of the world.) During the first two weeks of December, Comet Leonard will be visible for a couple of hours before sunrise, low in the east-northeast sky. It will track through the constellations Coma Berenices, Boötes and Serpens. It should be an easy object to see with a small telescope or a pair of binoculars – and possibly with the unaided eye – and will be at its brightest around the 14th when it should be visible just before dawn and just after dusk. During the latter half of December, as the comet gets closer to the sun, it will gradually get absorbed into the light of dawn and disappear from view.

Comet Leonard’s position relative to the Earth, 12 December.

Keep watching the skies!