December is already a pretty wild month, what with Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the various holiday parties that take place throughout the month. The fun times are also set to intensify this month thanks to the advent of three planetary events and two meteor showers taking place in the next few weeks.
For us lucky folks in Australia, we’ll be able to spot pretty much of all these events taking place in the sky with some set to be truly spectacular. The final event of December is also a once-in-a-lifetime event, so be sure to get involved as it won’t happen again until 2080.
December 2: Phoenicid Meteor Shower
The first meteor shower of the month won’t be as brilliant as the second, but according to 7News, those living in Australia should be able to see a few shooting stars each hour during the evening of December 2.
December 13: Approach of Venus and the Moon
The first planetary event of the month involves the Moon and Venus passing within 45.0 arcminutes of each other (less than one degree) in the early hours of December 13, according to In the Sky. For those in Sydney, the planets will be visible in the sky at around 4:11am and will fade around 5:19am when dawn breaks. Head to In the Sky to find out what time this event will be occurring where you live.
December 14: Geminids Meteor Shower
The second meteor shower of December is said to be the most brilliant. The Geminids are considered to be one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year and according to Time and Date, there is the possibility of seeing around 120 meteors per hour at its peak, which is set to be around 11pm.
To see the meteor shower in all its glory, Time and Date recommends finding a secluded viewing spot away from city lights. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark in order to appreciate the entire show, lay on the ground, look up at the sky and enjoy!
December 17: Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon approach
Jupiter and Saturn are set to come together for an exciting event later in December but before that, the two planets will come in close proximity of the Moon. According to In the Sky, those living in Sydney will be able to see the trio with the naked eye at around 8:21pm above the western horizon.
December 21: Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
The most exciting event taking place this month involves Jupiter and Saturn appearing close in the sky, which astronomers call a conjunction. According to the ABC, Saturn has been trailing Jupiter for the last few months and on December 21, roughly half an hour after sunset, the two planets will come together in a grand conjunction — something that happens once every 20 years.
What makes this event so special is the closeness of these particular planets, with roughly a 10th of a degree separating the two. This is the closest Jupiter and Saturn have appeared in the sky in nearly 400 years — the last time this happened was in 1623. The planets will be so close that you should be able to see them in one eyepiece of a telescope, which is something that won’t happen again until 2080.
“You would be lucky to see this once in a lifetime,” Andrew Jacob, curator at Sydney Observatory, said.
Jupiter and Saturn should appear in the evening about half an hour after sunset but will only be visible for roughly an hour before they disappear below the western horizon, so you’ll have to get in quick to spot this special phenomenon.