Fixed On The Heavens: Celestial Events In December

Keep your eyes glued to the skies as we enter the cold crevices of December, the harbinger of astronomical treats
Perseid meteor activity
Perseid meteor activityShutterstock

As the cold weather settles in, December brings a series of captivating celestial events for skygazers to enjoy. From meteor showers to the solstice, this wintry month offers the perfect setting for the regular realm to transform into a magical wonderland. It's a month that truly captivates the imagination with the spectacles of the cosmos.

Explore our compiled list of celestial events this December that you should mark on your calendar so that you are well prepared for the maximum enjoyment of these visual treats.

Geminid Meteor Shower

Geminid meteor shower
Geminid meteor showerShutterstock

The Geminid meteor shower is a spectacular sight to behold, illuminating the December night sky from December 4 to 16, with the peak occurring on December 13 into the early hours of December 14, when meteor activity is at its highest. This well-known meteor shower orbits the Sun every 1.4 years and originates from the debris of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. It was named after the chariot driver in Greek mythology. Despite having humble beginnings, the Geminids have evolved into a captivating celestial display, promising observers a mesmerising show against the December night sky. The Geminids are one of the most reliable meteor showers, producing a peak of around 120 meteors per hour at their best.

Instructions

For the best view of the meteor shower, it is recommended to find a secluded spot away from the city's bright lights. After reaching the location, give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness, which usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

Comae Berenicids Meteor Shower

Coma Berenicids constellation
Coma Berenicids constellationShutterstock

The Comae Berenicids is a meteor shower that occurs annually from December 12 to 23, peaking around December 16. These meteors are known for their incredible speed, reaching up to 65 kilometres per second. This shower is unique in that it is associated solely with the constellation Coma Berenices, best observed at latitudes between +90° and -70° during the culmination in May. So, if you want to witness the Comae Berenicids meteor shower, mark your calendars for December 12 to 23, with the best viewing opportunity on December 16.

Instructions

Visible from New Delhi, the meteor shower will peak around the new moon phase. You may see two meteors/hour at its peak, with minimal moonlight interference.

Ursid Meteor Shower

The Ursids are a minor meteor shower that occurs annually between December 13 and 24. It is associated with Comet 8P/Tuttle and usually produces around 10 meteors per hour at its peak. The best time to view the shower is in the early morning, and it usually peaks around the winter solstice on December 22. This year, the shower is expected to peak on the morning of December 23.

The Ursids get their name from their radiant point, located near the star Beta Ursae Minoris in the constellation Ursa Minor. Although the meteors appear to originate from Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Dipper, they can be seen across the entire sky.

Instructions

The Ursid meteor shower will be visible throughout the night, but the best viewing time is during the pre-dawn hours when the radiant is highest in the sky.

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, also known as the December solstice, is a significant astronomical event that marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It occurs when the Earth is tilted farthest away from the sun. The winter solstice is celebrated with diverse traditions, holidays, and festivals worldwide. In the Northern Hemisphere, it takes place on December 21 or 22; in the Southern Hemisphere, it falls on June 20 or 21. This year, the winter solstice falls on December 22, indicating the cosmic alignment that signals the change of seasons and the promise of longer days ahead.

Instructions

You can observe the winter solstice in the sun appearing low in the sky at noon and shadows stretching to their longest. The position of sunrise and sunset will move southward in the months leading up to the solstice. The winter solstice at Stonehenge can be watched online.

December Full Moon

For representation purpose only
For representation purpose onlyShutterstock

The Full Moon is a lunar phase that occurs when the sun illuminates the moon's entire surface, making it difficult to observe other celestial objects due to its brightness. Each month has its full moon, and December's full moon is often called the "Cold Moon" due to the chilly weather in many places. It is also known as the "Long Nights Moon" and the "Moon Before Yule," and is sometimes referred to as the "December Moon." The name is derived from the cold winter temperatures. The Full Cold Moon will occur this year on Tuesday, December 26.

Instructions

The December full moon is visible from around sunset to sunrise. It has a higher trajectory than most full moons, so it will stay above the horizon for longer. The moon's disk will appear fully illuminated a couple of days before and after a full moon.

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