If you missed some of the astonishing astronomical events this year, December also gives you a chance to catch some amazing sights in the night sky.
This has been an extraordinary year in many ways. In certain aspects, it was a terrible year, in others – marvelous. When it comes to astronomical events, 2020 has been exceptional. Not a month has passed without a plethora of sights to see and December will not disappoint us either as there are no less than four remarkable astronomical events left.
December 13/14 – Geminid Meteor Shower
The Geminid Meteor Shower is a regular astronomical event every December but for 2020, it promises to be even more spectacular and easily the most abundant meteor shower of this year.
The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks around this time each year because Earth passes through the debris of a curious asteroid – 3200 Phaeton. Some believe that Phaeton may be an “extinct” comet which would fit into the perspective of how it currently looks and behaves.
To watch this astronomical event, I suggest leaving the city for a few hours on the night of December 13/14 to a place where the sky is cleaner. The meteors should appear in all parts of the sky but their epicenter should the Gemini constellation.
December 14 – Total Solar Eclipse
Again on December 14, people from certain regions around the world will be able to see another yearly astronomical event – the second Solar Eclipse of 2020. Such occur at least twice every year but this one will be more special than usual.
Unlike the previous one in 2020, this will be a Total Solar Eclipse. This means that at the peak moment, the sun will be entirely hidden by the shadow of the Moon.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon will be visible in only a small region of the world and this time this is South America. So, if you are from Chile, Argentina, or anywhere else in Southern South America, you can enjoy this marvelous sight.
December 21 – Great Conjunction
Saturn and Jupiter align once every 20 years but the Great Conjunction of 2020 will be a truly special astronomical event. The two gas giants have not been this close together since 1226 or otherwise said – in almost 800 years.
You can observe the closest alignment of the two planets shortly after Midnight on December 21. However, the two planets are already visible close in the sky every night as they have been for months. Nevertheless, on December 21, they will be only 0.1 degrees apart which will make them look nearly perfectly aligned.
If you want to know everything about the Great Conjunction of 2020, you can read our article on the astronomical event here.
December 21/22 – Ursids Meteor Shower
People often neglect the Ursids Meteor Shower in December as it is not among the most spectacular astronomical events of 2020. Nevertheless, it is magnificent and should not be missed by any dedicated stargazer.
To get the highest chance of seeing some Ursids, you should locate the constellation Ursa Minor, commonly known as the Little Bear. Perhaps it will be easier for you to find the Little Dipper or the North Star.
Within it is the star called Kochab which is known as the source of the Ursids Meteor Shower. Unfortunately, this astronomical event will only be visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
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• Desk, I. (2020, December 08). Solar Eclipse December 2020: Date, time and significance.
• Kramer, M. (2020, December 08). Here’s when can you see the Geminid meteor shower, one of the best of the year.
• A magnified view of Jupiter and Saturn at conjunction. (n.d.).
• Mann, A. (2020, May 15). The Ursid meteor shower: A sparkling winter show.