Sky at Night – December 2023

by Graham Dodds

Clear night skies in December will bring a few things for us to enjoy.

Meteors – Visible southward, the Geminid meteor shower is active between 4-17 December. Expect 60-70 meteors per hour. Due to the presence of trace metals (sodium, calcium) white, yellow and perhaps red, blue or green meteors will be on show.

Orion the HunterConstellations – Close to Gemini is the constellation of Orion (The Hunter in classical mythology). Visible southeast and south (as the month progresses) its ‘sword’ (the group of stars below the main ‘belt’) contains the M42 nebula, a beautiful sight and visible using small 8 x 30mm binoculars or a 60mm telescope.

Planets – Jupiter continues to be dominant, look for it in a southerly direction on 21/22 Dec when it is close to a waxing gibbous Moon. Venus is the brightest object in the pre-dawn south-east. Mercury may be visible at the end of the month, faint and close to the horizon to the lower left of Venus. The Moon will be close to the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters), a lovely star cluster, on and just before Xmas Eve.

Finally, our shortest day/longest night, the 2023 winter solstice falls on 22 Dec.