Check out what's happening in the sky!
This calendar of celestial events is frequently updated.
Image: UAF photo by Todd Paris, 2014.
- November 23 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 1:58 pm Alaska time. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
- December 7 - Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 7:09 pm Alaska time. This full moon is sometimes known as the Cold Moon, the Long Nights Moon, and the Moon Before Yule.
December 8 - Mars at Opposition. The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet's orange surface.
- December 13, 14 - Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The waning gibbous moon will block many of the fainter meteors this year. But the Geminids are so numerous and bright that this should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
- December 21 - December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 12:40 pm Alaska time. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
December 21 - Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 20.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.e.
- December 21, 22 - Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. This year, the nearly new moon will leave dark skies for what should be a really good show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
- December 23 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible
in the night sky. This phase occurs at 1:17 am Alaska time. This is the best time
of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there
is no moonlight to interfere.
More astronomy viewing resources:
Check the aurora forecast for Interior Alaska, courtesy of the Geophysical Institute.
Use star wheels and astrolabes to find celestial bodies!
Sea and Sky has a yearly calendar to help you plan future astronomy viewings.
Check the weather on Mars, courtesy of the Curiosity rover.
Image: Perseids Meteor Shower (NASA/JPL ).
This project was funded under NASA cooperative agreement NNX16AL65A and cooperative agreement number NNH15ZDA004C. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.