3 Extra Special Celestial Sights in Jaw-Dropping December

December at Best

So how has been your 2020 been? Ok, it is a weird question to ask but still, if Elon Musk manages to make $100 billion for Tesla in this year alone then it might be a good year for those shareholders investing in him for making his fortune shine brighter than the sun in our solar system. Although it has been a terrible year for me though.

I think we all need a break, although it has been a break still many of us wants a break from all this. I think we need to sit in the sky and observe our stars. Moreover, December 2020 has something to offer as the cosmos will oblige by offering us three spectacular sky events to help us all see-off a difficult year in style.

Here is what you will experience in this coming month, but how and when are a few lines down.

  • Meteor Shower
  • Total Eclipse
  • 2 planets: 1 Sight

The exciting part is that you don’t need a full astronomical telescope to witness these events except for one that you will be able to witness online. Yes, you can see all these from your home. This is what, when, how you will see these exotic events.

A green-glowing meteor from the annual Geminids meteor shower.
A green-glowing meteor from the annual Geminids meteor shower.

1. Colorful Meteor Shower

Time: Night of Sunday/Monday, December 13-14, 2020

Location: Full-Sky

‘Meteor Shower’ is not the term in the good books of most astronomers because meteors don’t tend to shower at all but they tend to occasionally ‘streak’.  Geminids can appear to be a bit different. As the northern hemisphere’s warmer nights at that time of year, August’s Perseids getting more attention but the annual highlight of the meteor watcher’s calendar is December’s Geminids.

During the peak of the Geminids, it may be possible to see up to 150 “shooting stars” per hour of mostly yellow colors but some are green and blue. To observe this event you must need to have a great amount of patience and absolute darkness. At least the Moon plays ball this year as the Geminids peak becoming a New moon, hence it is invisible.

You will be the best ones to enjoy this year’s Geminids if the weather in your surroundings is at the best and it will be to drive out to a dark sky site leaving the issue of light pollution as far as possible. Don’t be tensed if you live in a crowded city with a little bit of pollution as you could see some “shooting stars” if the sky is clear.

If you want to see “shooting stars” since you want as wide-eyed a view as possible of a big sky then you might not need any kind of binoculars but you can use them to get a close-up on a meteor’s colorful smoky trail if you’re quick.  

A total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 in Paiguano, Chile.
A total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 in Paiguano, Chile.

2. Sun with Full Eclipse

Time: Monday, December 14, 2020

Location: Southern Chile and Argentina

The grand sight of a total solar eclipse is expected to be on live streams to burgeon online in advance of the year’s celestial highlight.

New Moon will pass across the face of the Sun during the event. Although the moon is 400 times smaller than our Sun but the catch is that Sun is also 400 times far away, hence the perfect match-up. Across the Earth’s surface races a shadow which is thrown out. On December 14, 2020, the moon will be throwing areas of southern Chile and Argentinean Patagonia into darkness as moon-shadow will take 24 minutes to cross southern South America.

2 minutes 9 seconds of totality in the middle of the day will be experienced by the locations near the centerline of the “path of totality”. A similar event, known as the “Great American Eclipse” was experienced back in 2017 with birds going crazy and viewers able to glimpse the Sun’s white corona spilling-out into space as temperatures plunge.

 The experience of watching a total solar eclipse is no doubt, spectacular but you can watch it online also. If so ever if you miss this eclipse, then the next one is in Antarctica on December 4, 2021, after that on April 20, 2023, in Western Australia, next will be on April 8, 2024, with an experience of 4 minute+ totality from Texas to Canada’s Atlantic coast while visible in North America.

Venus and Jupiter in a very close conjunction on November 13, 2017.
Venus and Jupiter in a very close conjunction on November 13, 2017.

3. Jupiter and Saturn in Great Conjunction

Time: Monday, December 21, 2020

Location: Southwest after sunset

Planet-watching has been great this year with Venus, firstly dominating the evening skies to be put back by Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Just before the two gas giant planets are going to disappear at the back of the Sun, a spectacular grand finale is destined to happen.

This month Saturn is twice as far from Earth as is Jupiter but in the post-sunset night sky for a few days, the two planets will appear to be next to each other. Each night you can to the southwest after dark during December to see the two planets inching close together but if you try to distinct them on December 21, 2020, you will fail to do so as you could struggle to separate them. You’ll be able to get Jupiter’s four large Moons and both planets into the field of view of a pair of binoculars or a small telescope.

Since 1623, Jupiter and Saturn have not been this close, although this ‘great conjunction’ occurs every 19.6 years and since 1226, it has been not so easy to observe. To observe the event best from your home on the event day December 21, you need to find a place close to your home where you can see low down to the southwest horizon about 30 minutes after the sunset. The sight of this meeting will be only an hour before they sink below the horizon.

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