Perfect Astronomy

December 2022 Night Sky Astronomy

Published December 1, 2022 by Tim Trott in News

Night Sky viewing guide for December 2022 including Moon phases, occultation of Mars, conjunctions, Geminid meteor shower and Deep Space Objects to see.

Decembers Moon Phases

In December, winter sets in and the Full Moon is called the Cold Moon. It is also called Long Nights Moon, and the Moon before Yule.

Full Moon and New Moon for December 2022

First Quarter
First Quarter
Thu 1st Dec
Full Moon
Full Moon
Thu 8th Dec
Last Quarter
Last Quarter
Fri 16th Dec
New Moon
New Moon
Sat 24th Dec

Notable Events in December

There’s an opportunity to observe a lunar occultation of Mars as it reaches opposition, 8 December 2022. See the next section for details.

December Planets

On morning of the 8th of December 2022, Mars will be occulted by the full Moon. Mars will disappear behind the Moon's western edge at 04:45 UT and will take 36 seconds to be full covered. Mars will then reappear at 05:56 on the eastern side and take 34 seconds to be fully shown. Times correct for centre of UK and will vary up to a few minutes depending on location.

On 8th of December 2022, Mars will be occulted by the full Moon.
On 8th of December 2022, Mars will be occulted by the full Moon.

Jupiter is a splendid object visible in the southern sky as soon as darkness falls. Using higher magnifications you will see the yellowish flattened disc and as the four Galilean satellites. You should be able to follow the movement of these moons from night-to-night. It will be visible in the mornings from January to May, evenings from May to November, and mornings again from mid-December to the end of December.

Saturn is visible in the mornings from late January to early July, then in the evenings from July to December.

Throughout the month of December, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter will appear equally spaced towards the southwest after sunset, with the moon passing close by each of them from the 6th to the 8th.

December Meteor Showers

The annual Geminid Meteor Shower takes place in December, with the peak on the 13th. It’s one of the favourite observing events of the year with many bright meteors expected to be visible.

Geminid Meteor Shower
Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower reaches peak activity around 14th December, making 13th and 14th December ideal times to look for meteors. The Geminids provide good activity prior to midnight as the constellation of Gemini is well placed from 10pm onward. Around the peak of the 2021 Geminid meteor shower, the Moon is in an advanced waxing phase. Although it will be 78% illuminated in a waxing gibbous phase on the evening of 13/14th December, it sets around 03:00 UT on 14 December. Given the long dark December nights, this means there will still be around three hours of darkness left to enjoy what the shower has to deliver.

The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. This year, the nearly new moon will leave dark skies for what should be a really good show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Ursid Meteor Shower
Ursid Meteor Shower

December Deep Space Objects

The Orion Nebula (M42 and M43) are prime targets in the winter months hanging in the South Eastern sky. They are easy to locate as they form the sword hanging from Orion's Belt.

Taurus contains two glorious winter deep sky objects - the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. Both can bee seen with the naked eye and are wonderful sights in binoculars, and small telescopes will further reveal the glittering array of bright, blue stars that make up the Pleiades. The Crab Nebula (M1) is almost directly overhead during the early evening hours. You do need a dark, clear sky, for to see the Crab nebula as it has a tendency to get lost in light pollution. It may be just barely visible as a dim patch of light in good binoculars, whilst telescopes greater than 3" should be able resolve more detail.

Taurus is home to the Pleiades cluster and the Crab Nebula (M1)
Taurus is home to the Pleiades cluster and the Crab Nebula (M1)

A short hop into neighbouring Auriga will bring you to the three exquisite open clusters - M36, M37 and M38 all of which can be spotted with binoculars and lie in the region between Beta Tauri and Delta Aurigae.

Constellation of Auriga is home to Open Clusters M36, M37 and M38
Constellation of Auriga is home to Open Clusters M36, M37 and M38

With dark skies, you should be able to spot the double cluster Perseus with the naked eye. It's another great target for small telescopes and consists of the clusters NGC 869 and NGC 884.

The Andromeda galaxy is a favourite of mine, directly overhead in December and slowly setting towards the west during January and into February. This large galaxy can be seen as a faint fuzzy blob with the naked eye under dark skies, but its really best to see through binoculars. Through a telescope the Andromeda Galaxy looks quite diffuse. Use your lowest power; the full extent of the galaxy is huge - five times as large as the full moon. It is the most distant object you can see with your naked eyes being two million light years away.

Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is found by locating the square of Pegasus and extending the diagonal line from the southwest to northeast corner, extending it about the same distance again to reach Mirach. Turn by 90° to head northwest for a short distance to
Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is found by locating the square of Pegasus and extending the diagonal line from the southwest to northeast corner, extending it about the same distance again to reach Mirach. Turn by 90° to head northwest for a short distance to
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