December will be a busy month for sky events from nine meteor showers, to a solar eclipse, and even spotting an asteroid. Let’s take a look at what to expect during the last month of 2021.
The peak of the Phoenicids meteor shower will occur on December 2nd in the constellation Phoenix but with very few shooting stars per hour. Those living near the equator and in the southern hemisphere (Central and South America, Southern Europe, Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania) will have the best view of it.
A total solar eclipse will happen on December 4th; however, it will only be visible in totality from Antarctica and the very southern part of the Atlantic Ocean. Those in the southern tip of South Africa will have an opportunity to watch some of it as well.
December 6th will be the peak of the φ-Cassiopeid meteor shower in the constellation Cassiopeia but with very few shooting stars each hour.
The conjunction of the moon and Saturn will happen at sunset on December 7th when they will be just 4°11′ away from each other. Saturn will be in the constellation Capricornus not far from the crescent moon.
The peak of the Puppid-Velid meteor shower will also happen on December 7th in between the constellations Puppis and Vela. The best time to get a glimpse of a few meteors each hour will be between midnight and 3:00 am local time.
Another sky treat will happen on December 7th when Venus will be at its brightest of the entire the year with a magnitude of -4.7.
The conjunction of the moon and Jupiter will occur after sunset on December 9th when they will be 4°28′ from one another.
The peak of the Monocerotid meteor shower will happen on December 9th as well in the constellation Monoceros. The faint constellation is located west of Orion, north of Gemini, south of Canis Major, and east of Hydra. The best time to view the shooting stars will be between 1:00 am and 3:00 am local time.
December 10th is when asteroid 44 Nysa will be at opposition. Even though it will be illuminated by the sun, you’ll still need a telescope or binoculars to spot it in the main asteroid belt.
The peak of the σ-Hydrid meteor shower will be on December 12th in the constellation Hydra. While you should be able to view a few shooting stars after sunset on December 11th, the best time to look for them will be between 2:00 am and 5:00 am local time on December 12th.
December 14th will be the peak of the Geminid meteor shower where you could spot as many as 120 meteors each hour in the constellation Gemini which is located in the northeastern part of the sky. The best time to view it will be around 2:00 am local time; however, the moon will be 85% illuminated, so it may cause a bit of a problem in spotting some of the shooting stars.
Two nights later on December 16th, the peak of the Comae Berenicid meteor shower will happen. It will be below the horizon for the majority of the northern hemisphere, but those living in the southern hemisphere will be able to observe up to three meteors per hour in the constellation Leo with the best time being between the hours of midnight and 2:00 am.
The peak of the Leonis Minorid meteor shower will happen on December 19th in the Leo Minor constellation with up to three meteors each hour. It can be viewed in the lower part of the northwestern sky.
The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere will be on December 21st and will be the longest night of the entire year. It will be the shortest night of 2021 in the southern hemisphere where it will be the summer solstice.
The following night on December 22nd will be the peak of the Ursid meteor shower in the northern sky’s Ursa Minor constellation. You should be able to see some shooting stars as the moon will be near its new phase and the sky will be very dark.