Step outside after sunset this month to spot Jupiter and Saturn’s dramatic pairing, 2020’s best meteor shower, and more!
Although 2020 has been a struggle for everyone, it’s ending with high celestial drama. Check out the evening-sky events that can be glimpsed by even casual stargazers with the help of our Sky Tour astronomy podcast.
Leading the parade is this year’s arrival of the Geminid meteor shower, arguably the year’s best, which peaks on the night of December 13–14. This peak’s circumstances are nearly ideal for observers in the Americas, because the new Moon can’t spoil the show with its unwanted brilliance. How many Geminids might you see from a dark site free of light pollution? When is the best time to look for these “shooting stars”? And what causes them? You’ll get the answers if you listen to this month’s podcast!
This month also features an extraordinarily close pairing of Jupiter and somewhat dimmer Saturn low in the southwestern sky after sunset. On the evening of December 21st, they’ll be separated by only 0.1° — so close that to the eye they’ll appear to have merged into a single beacon. They haven’t appeared this close to one another for nearly 400 years.
Meanwhile, the brilliant stars of northern winter spread across the evening sky not long after sunset. Low in the east, look for the easy-to-recognize hourglass pattern marking Orion, the Hunter. Higher up is Aldebaran, in Taurus, a bright star that was known by many names in various cultures. Higher still is the delicate Pleiades star cluster.
With so much to see in the night sky, you’ll need a dependable guide to what’s where — and our 12-minute-long Sky Tour provides that. Using its clear, simple directions, you’ll be able to navigate among the stars and planets with ease. So why wait? Download this fun and informative astronomy podcast, and then use it to increase your enjoyment of the nighttime sky.