December Astronomy Skywatch

The Crescent Moon allows for a terrific view of Venus in the early morning skies

The Crescent Moon allows for a terrific view of Venus in the early morning skies

December 2, 2015| Categories: Planetarium News, Skywatch Almanac Astronomy, Space Science, StarGazing

The longest nights of the year offer the greatest variety of stars and constellations. Through the month, Orion rises earlier each evening, and dominates the eastern sky, often identified by his line of three “belt” stars. Extending this line to the upper rights leads to the red star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the Bull, while looking to the lower left, the brilliant star Sirius is rising. The mornings continue to host most of the planets, led by the brilliant Venus, with a much dimmer Mars higher and to the right, and Jupiter quite prominent, and quite high in the south by twilight. Saturn makes its return later in the month, to the lower left of Venus. Mercury, the lone evening planet, is low in the southwest from Christmas through New Years.

Here are some astronomy events to watch:

7 – The morning offers an amazing pairing of Venus and the waning Crescent Moon, which passes in front of Venus this afternoon.

13 – The Geminid Meteor Shower reaches its peak, the most prolific of the year. If the weather cooperates, the skies after midnight can see over 100 shooting stars per hour.

21 – The Winter Solstice marks the calendar arrival of Winter at 11:48 PM EST.   Summer begins in the southern hemisphere.

December’s Full Cold Moon on Dec 25 is also known as the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes.

Last Quarter: December 3, 2:42 A.M.
New Moon: December 11, 5:29 A.M.
First Quarter: December 18, 10:15 A.M.
Full Moon: December 25, 6:11 A.M.

Length of day in St. Johnsbury, VT:

Sunrise December 1     7:04 AM EST

Sunset December 1       4:10 PM EST

Length of Day   9h 6m


Sunrise December 31   7:24 AM EST

Sunset December 31   4:18 PM EST

Length of Day   8h 54m

Tags: Eye on the Night Sky, Fairbanks Museum, Mark Breen Skywatch