Nasa’s skywatching tips for December — rare asteroids and a meteor shower

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has shared tips for what stargazers should look out for during December, including the peak of the Geminid meteor shower.

Moreover, there will also be several times during which the moon will be visible near various planets, and a rare opportunity to see an asteroid pass by Earth.

Nasa describes Geminid as “the year’s most reliable meteor shower” and says skywatchers could see as many as one meteor every minute.

The meteor shower will peak on 13 December, with those in the Northern Hemisphere able to look for the meteors from 21:00 or 22:00, while those in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the shower in the middle of the night.

Nasa notes that those in the Southern Hemisphere will see fewer meteors than those in the Northern Hemisphere.

Stargazers will be able to see the moon in relatively close proximity to various planets at various stages throughout December:

  • The moon will be near Venus and the bright Spica star between 7 and 10 December.
  • On 17 December, stargazers will see the moon hanging just below Saturn shortly after sunset.
  • On 21 and 22 December, the moon will be close to Jupiter and easy to spot, with the planet being one of the brightest in the night sky.

Lastly, an asteroid is expected to pass Earth in December, with Nasa saying it may be visible to the naked eye.

However, it notes that viewing with binoculars or a telescope will give skywatchers a better chance of tracking it down.

Asteroid Vesta should be visible nightly from around 22:00, with the best time to spot it between 01:00 and 02:00.

Around 8 December, Vesta will appear between the Betelgeuse supergiant star and the Propus star system.

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Nasa’s skywatching tips for December — rare asteroids and a meteor shower