December 2014 astronomy events

¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending December 6, 2014

Mars lingers in about the same place in the sky every evening in December as the stars of Capricorn move westward behind it. Northern hemisphere observers will see them in the southwest. They will be due west from about 20┬░ south. And they’ll be a little northwest from places farther south. See a thin crescent moon pass the red planet on the 25th.

The red planet is at perihelion, closest to the sun, on the 12th.

Late in the month, you can catch Venus in the glow of dusk where the sun was after sunset.

On the opposite side of the sky at sunset, the Hyades V with orange Aldebaran is rising. Orion isn’t far behind it. Canis Major is up a few hours later in the evening.

Jupiter rises in late evening. It’s very slowly moving toward Regulus in Leo. A waning gibbous moon makes a triangle with the planet and star on the 12th. But by that time, Jupiter has stopped in its tracks and begun to go the other way. It will remain retrograde into the new year.

Saturn rises not long before the sun. A very thin waning crescent moon is nearby on the 19th. Antares is visible below the ringed planet by the end of the month.

Mercury passes through conjunction this month. You might see it in the evening very low on the horizon in the west just after the sun goes down.

The colorful Geminid meteor shower will peak around the 13th and 14th. The best viewing will be after midnight. There’ll be some interference from a waning gibbous moon.

The Ursid meteor shower peaks on the 22nd. The moon won’t interfere at all. This is mainly a northern hemisphere shower which produces five to ten meteors per hour.

Solstice and lunistice occur on the same day this month. The moon and the sun will each be their farthest south on the 21st.