Amazing Astronomical Events in December 2020

For Sky-gazers to most northern hemispheres, the Comae Berenicids Meteor Shower will be below the horizon. Southern Hemisphere sky-gazers can enjoy this meteor shower at this peak on the night of December 15th. On that night, they’ll see 3 meteors per hour from the radiant point of the constellation Leo.

On this day, three celestial objects (Moon, Jupiter and Saturn) will appear close to each other in the evening sky. The Moon will be three days old. That day Jupiter and Saturn will be closest to the night sky. they’ll all appear within 2°56′ of each other in the sky, the moment of closest approach will be around 7:00 a.m. (UTC) and 1:00 p.m. (BST).

While the December Leonis Minorid Meteor Shower is one of the lesser-known and least active of the month, it’s still a fun astronomical event if you find yourself out for a winter solstice celebration and the skies are dark. Leonis Minorid meteor shower takes place in the constellation of Leo Minor. Leo Minor, also known as “The Small Lion” is one of the 88 constellations modern astronomers have divided the sky into. It’s part of the Ursa Major constellation family. Normally, the constellation Leo Minor is best seen in April (from latitudes +90° to -45°). However, in the month of December, the constellation shines even brighter because of its Leonis Minorid meteor shower!

The December Leonis Minorid meteor shower is active from Saturday the 5th of December to Thursday the 4th of February. However, the peak rate of meteors is produced on Saturday the 19th of December. The constellation Leo Minor and therefore the December Leonis Minorid meteor shower are visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

For the northern hemisphere this Winter Solstice is also known as ‘Winter Solstice’. And it is the longest night for sky-gazers from the northern hemisphere. On the other hand, in the southern hemisphere, it’s the shortest night of the year, which is known as the ‘Summer Solstice’.

Image: Planetary motion with the ecliptic plane

In the northern hemisphere, this is the day when the Sun’s annual journey through the constellations of the zodiac reaches its most southerly point in the sky, in the constellation of Capricornus at a declination of 23.5°S. This day is counted by astronomers to be the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere.

In the southern hemisphere, the Sun is above the horizon for longer than on any other day of the year, and astronomers define this to be the first day of summer.

At the solstice, the Sun appears overhead at noon when observed from locations on the tropic of Capricorn, at a latitude 23.5°S.

Image: Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

This the most awaited astronomical event of 2020, the great conjunction will take place on December 21! Where Jupiter and Saturn appear close to one another in the sky. Jupiter and Saturn will be just 0.1 degrees apart. This rare astronomical event only occurs every 19.6 years due to the two planet’s orbital paths in the sky. This is the closest conjunction since 1623, at just 6.1 arcminutes (0.1°) apart. Look to the west just after sunset for this impressive and rare planetary pair.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Ursids Meteor Shower will be the last meteor shower of the year 2020. This meteor shower will be active from December 17th to 26th. This shower usually peaks around December 23. The shower will produce its best displays before dawn. At its peak, observers may be able to view as many as 10 meteors in an hour.

Image: Radiant Point-Ursa Minor

The Ursids radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor. This shower will be seen from the Northern hemisphere. The first quarter moon should set just after midnight leaving dark skies for what could be a good show. The best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Though these meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Tue 17:00349° 14.4°
Tue 18:00352° 12.1°
Tue 19:00355° 10.5°
Tue 20:00359° 9.8°
Tue 21:009.9°
Tue 22:0010.9°
Tue 23:0012.7°
Wed 00:0012° 15.3°
Wed 01:0014° 18.4°
Wed 02:0015° 21.9°
Wed 03:0015° 25.5°
Wed 04:0015° 29.1°
Wed 05:0013° 32.4°
Wed 06:0010° 35.1°
Wed 07:0037.0°
Image: Comparison between Apogee and Perigee

The Moon will reach the farthest point along its orbit to the Earth and will appear slightly smaller than average.

Our Moon will reach its full phase for the last time in 2020. 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 03:30 UTC and 09:30 BST. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. On December 24, the moon will lie at a declination of +24°51‘ in the constellation Gemini and so will appear highest in the northern hemisphere. It will be visible from all latitudes south of 55°S. Its distance from the Earth will be 392,000 km.

Our Blue Planet will complete another orbit of the Sun, in about 365.25 days!

Hopefully, we have been able to summarize almost all of the astronomical events that took place in December, the last month of the year, and we believe that after learning about the above events you will become interested in astronomy at least a little or will be interested in seeing all these events with your own eyes. At the same time, the interest in seeing the night sky will increase. Good luck and happy new year. See more and more skies, try to know the unknown, and stay with Bangladesh Astronomy Research Collaboration in this cosmic journey.