December 2021 Astronomical Highlights
The Visible Planets
Mercury is not visible for most of this month, but slowly emerges out of the Sun’s glow after sunset at the very end of the month joining Venus low in the southwestern sky.
Venus continues to shine brightly very low above the southwestern horizon at sunset for the month. After sunset on December 6 look for Venus just above the slim waxing crescent Moon, making for a nice pairing and a great photo op.
Mars slowly emerges out of the predawn Sun’s glow along the eastern horizon.
Jupiter is brightest object seen low in the southern sky at sunset. You really cannot miss it. It is found in the constellation of Capricornus, the sea goat, at the start of the month but moves into the adjacent eastern constellation of Aquarius, the water bearer, on December 14 and remains there for the rest of the month. On the evening of December 8, look for Jupiter just above the waxing crescent Moon and to the east of the fainter planet Saturn. The brighter planet Venus will also be seen a little further toward the west on the night of December 8, making this a wonderful grouping of celestial bodies.
Saturn is seen low in the southwestern sky at sunset this month. Saturn is found within the constellation of Capricornus, the sea goat, and can been seen just to the west of the much brighter planet Jupiter. Look for Saturn just above the slim waxing crescent Moon after sunset on December 7. For all of December, a fine gathering of the planets Venus, Saturn and Jupiter will be seen in the southwestern sky after sunset, with Mercury joining them at the very end of the month.
December 4 New Moon
December 10 First Quarter Moon
December 18 Full Moon (The Cold Moon)
December 26 Last Quarter Moon
International Space Station (ISS) Observable Passes
During the month of December there will be some favourable passes of the ISS as seen from Edmonton. From December 1 to December 10, the ISS will be visible in our early evening period. From December 18 onwards, visible ISS passes switch into our early morning sky before sunrise. Check the website http://www.heavens-above.com for exact viewing times for your location.
December 4 Total solar eclipse visible from parts of Antarctica
Nothing visible from the northern hemisphere.
December 6 Venus near the slim waxing crescent Moon
December 8 Nice group of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Venus with the crescent Moon in the southwestern sky.
December 12 Comet Leonard, also named C/2021 A1,closest approach to Earth (34,907,464 km) Will comet Leonard put on a good show in our night sky? Look low in the southwestern sky at sunset to see it below Venus.
December 13 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Edmonton Centre) Meeting Tonight.
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
in the Zeidler Dome at the TELUS World of Science-Edmonton
Free event, all invited! This is the first in-person meeting of the RASC since March of 2020. Welcome back everyone!
See https://edmontonrasc.com/ for more details
December 13/14 Geminid meteor shower peaks (Zenith hourly rate of 120)
December 18 – January 2 School Christmas/Winter break
The long delayed launch of the James Webb Space Telescope takes place today!
December 21 Winter solstice occurs at precisely 8:59 a.m. MST
December 22 Ursid meteor shower peaks
December 25 Merry Christmas!
December 31 New Year’s Eve