Weymouth Astronomy

The Night Sky - December 2017

Look towards the zenith around midnight and one particular object stands out, the bright star Capella in Auriga. The Capella star system is only 43 light years from our sun hence it's brightness. However the light we see is not from a single star but two giant stars having individual magnitudes close to 0.9 and luminosities of around 80 sun-power. December also plays host to two meteor showers, The Geminids (14th-15th) and The Ursids (22nd-23rd).

The Night Sky

Highlights of the Month:

  • 2nd (before dawn): Mars and Jupiter and a last chance to observe Venus for a while
  • 14th (before dawn): Mars, Jupiter and a thin crescent Moon
  • 14th and 15th (after midnight): The Geminid Meteor Shower
  • 22nd-23rd (late evenings): The Ursid Meteor Shower
  • 30-31st (1 am): The Moon occults Aldebaran
  • 31st (before dawn): Jupiter and Mars close together in the pre-dawn sky with Mercury

Geminids Meteor ShowerGeminid Meteor Shower (Maximum on 14/15th)

The early mornings of December 14th and 15th will provide the opportuntity,if clear of observing the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. Pleasingly this is a great year to observe them as the thin waning crescent moon will not affect our view. The Geminids can often produce near-fireballs and so the shower is well worth observing if its clear. The radiant - where the meteors appear to come from - is close to the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini

The Ursid Meteor Shower (Maximum 22/23rd)

The late evenings of the 22nd and 23rd of the month are when the Ursid meteor shower will be at its best. Though the peak rate of 10-15 meteors per hour is not that great. Again as with the Geminids, the Moon will not affect our view during much of the night. The radiant lies close to the star Kochab in Ursa Minor (hence their name) so look northwards at a high elevation.

Information collated from Jodrell Bank and Astronomy Now magazine