December is the beginning of the best time of the year for observing the evening sky. The air is generally crisp and clear and the stars and constellation are clearly visible and easy to identify.
Overhead early is Taurus (the bull), and the second constellation of the Zodiac. The “V” shape is very distinctive. Taurus features the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) and the bright red star Aldebaran, the eye of the bull. Also, easily visible are Pisces (the fishes) and Aries (the ram). The bright star to the north is Capella, part of Auriga (the charioteer).
Very conspicuous in the west after sunset is Venus, rising higher and getting brighter every night. Mars (in Aquarius) is still visible, too, and these two are our only evening “stars” — Saturn has gone behind the sun. The sole morning “star” is Jupiter, also also rising earlier day by day.
The winter solstice (the first day of winter) is on Dec. 21, where the path of the sun (the ecliptic) is furthest south. It is also the shortest day of the year. December also features one of the best meteor showers of the year. The Geminids occur all night on Dec. 13 and 14. Also, the Ursid meteor shower occurs on Dec. 22 at pre-dawn.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and don’t forget who created all this majesty for us to enjoy! See you next year.