This month’s Sky Tour podcast introduces you to a “tower of brilliance” in the eastern evening sky, along with tips for finding four planets and watching mid-December’s impressive Geminid meteor shower.
Bright stars abound in the evening sky this month. Start by looking above the western horizon after nightfall for the distinctive Northern Cross. This asterism (the term for an obvious star pattern) is formed by the core stars in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.
Then turn around! Around 8 p.m. early in December, and by 6 p.m. at month’s end, you can take in what S&T columnist Fred Schaaf calls a “tower of brilliance” that starts near the eastern horizon and climbs all the way to overhead. Start low down by finding Orion. To its left are the twins of Gemini, anchored by the stars Castor and, below it, slightly brighter Pollux. This is the general area from which the Geminid meteors will seem to originate as they zip across the sky this month.
Then slide your gaze upward to take in the bright stars Aldebaran and Capella (with the Pleiades star cluster nearby), all topped by Jupiter, which is unmistakably bright and nearly overhead.
The Geminids are under-appreciated, because they often produce the year’s best meteor event. Ordinarily you can count on the Geminids to deliver maybe one meteor per minute from a really dark location, and these can often appear bright and intensely colored. This shower gets its name because the shooting stars you’ll see all seem to streak across the sky from the direction of the constellation Gemini.
You’ll get detailed instruction on when, where, and how to watch the Geminid meteors by listening to this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast. In fact, there’s much more going on in December’s evening and predawn skies, and our monthly podcast is an fun, informative way to get an overview of all the wonders you’ll see overhead this month.
Even better: No experience or equipment is needed! So if you’ve never listened to our Sky Tour before, give it a try!