Here are the Moon phases in the Northern hemisphere for December 2011 and other interesting things of note in the sky.

2nd December: First Quarter
10th December: Full Moon
18th December: Last Quarter
24th December: New Moon

The midnight sky looking South from Glasgow on the 10th into 11th December 2011

The midnight sky looking South from Glasgow on the 10th into 11th December 2011

 

The midnight sky looking South from Glasgow on the 24th into 25th December 2011

The midnight sky looking South from Glasgow on the 24th into 25th December 2011

 

The Geminids

The Geminids - December 2011

The Geminids can be seen radiating from the bright star Castor around 14th and 15th December 2011

Although there’s a Full Moon on the 10th December, there’s still a good chance you’ll see a meteor shower in the early morning of 14th and 15th December – as the Earth enters the debris trail left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon – the Geminids.

These meteors appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini (in particular from close to the star Castor (the ‘twin’ of Pollux).

The asteroid debris is comprised of very small pieces of dust and rock (think not much bigger than a few grains of sand) that burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere providing us with a bright trail of light in the sky – a meteor!

Although the Geminids arise from the trail left by an asteroid, most meteor showers actually arise from the trail left by comets.

 

The Planets

Jupiter is high in the sky as the Sun sets at the moment. You’ll recognise it as a bright silvery, non-scintillating (non-twinkling) object.

Saturn is visible in the sky just before dawn and the rise of the Sun.

By the end of December, Mars will be rising in the East before midnight, but your best chance to see it remains the early hours of the morning.

The other planets visible with the naked eye – Venus and Mercury – are trickier to see but not impossible! Late in the month you might see Mercury just before sunrise to the south-east. And with Venus the best time is just after sunset, but it is very low on the horizon so you’ll need to have a wide-open view of the sky to really stand a chance.

 

Orion the Hunter

The constellation of Orion the Hunter is a breathtaking part of the sky to view at this time of year whether with, or without binoculars or a telescope.

 

Longest Night of the Year

22nd December is Midwinter in 2011 (the winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere. From there on into 2012 the nights will be getting shorter and the hours of daylight longer.

 

Happy sky and star-gazing this December and thank’s for reading!