And just like that, we’re in the last month of 2022! Before the year ends, December is looking to spoil us with its lineup of astronomical events, from two meteor showers to a number of bright planets adorning our night sky. There’s a solstice happening, too!
Maximize your stargazing experience with a sky map and optical instruments like telescopes or binoculars. Easy-to-use observation stations like Stellina and Vespera come in handy–they are easily operated using smartphones and tablets! Al Sadeem Astronomy is the only distributor of this smart telescope here in the Middle East. You can place an order or inquiry here.
Check out the sky events for December 2022 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). All dates and times are in UAE Local Time (UTC+4).
December offers the best times to observe the red, dusty planet Mars.
On December 1, Mars will reach its perigee, or its closest point to our planet and forms a line with the Sun and the Earth. When a cosmic object is at perigee, its size and its brightness increase, too, giving us a couple of days of great views.
A week later, on December 8, Mars will be at opposition, appearing almost exactly opposite the Sun in the sky, and it will be visible for most of the night. Mars’ maximum brightness is estimated to be around -1.8, which is brighter than usual.
Catch the Red Planet after sunset at 6:45 P.M. until dawn the next day. It can be seen easily with the naked eye, but if you wish to observe it with much detail, a medium-sized telescope (6” and above) can help see the planet’s polar ice caps and dusty lanes.
This month will also be a great time to observe Mercury.
Take a look at the smallest planet in the Solar System on December 21, when the planet is at its greatest eastern elongation. It will appear in a waxing gibbous phase somewhere in the southwestern horizon at 5:40 P.M. until 7 P.M.
If you miss it, there’s another good chance to observe it on December 24, when it reaches its highest point in the sky, shining brightly at mag -0.6 and reaching a peak altitude of 16° above the horizon at sunset until 7 P.M.
We don’t get to enjoy Mercury as much as the other planets because it’s too close to the Sun that it gets lost in our star’s glare most of the time.
Aside from Mars at perigee, you may also want to take a look at the Moon-Jupiter conjunction on December 1.
The Waxing Gibbous Moon and the gas giant Jupiter will appear close to each other in the early evening sky from 6 P.M. until midnight.
On December 7, planet Mars will skirt close to the Full Moon to form a conjunction in the night sky. Catch the pair as early as 6:05 P.M. until around sunrise on the following day.
If you see a bright yellowish dot close to the Moon on December 26, that’s planet Saturn skirting close to our only natural satellite in its Waxing Crescent phase, with the Moon-Saturn pair becoming visible at 6 P.M. until 9:10 P.M.
The Moon-Jupiter tandem comes back on December 29 in a conjunction, dazzling skywatchers with its brightness from 6 P.M. until a little close to midnight.
December Meteor Showers
December delivers one of the best meteor showers in town, the Geminid meteor shower, but this year we may have to water down our expectations a bit.
The Geminids meteor shower is likely to peak from 11 PM of December 13 until dawn of December 14, producing 118 meteors per hour under a clear, dark, and moonless sky. But because the Waning Gibbous Moon will be up by 10:02 P.M., it can affect your meteor watching experience.
Catching bright streaks from the debris of asteroid 3200 Phaethon is highly likely if you look towards the direction of the radiant, or the point in the sky where the meteors seem to come from. Geminids will come from–yes, that’s right—in the constellation Gemini. Wait for it to come up the horizon to get a better viewing experience.
There’s another lesser known meteor shower in December, too. It’s called the Ursid meteor shower and it peaks in the early morning hours of December 23.
It’s not as intense as the Geminids that precedes it–averaging to 5 meteors per hour under a clear, dark, and moonless night–but it peaks close to the New Moon, which means darker skies for a meteor shower that comes from Comet 8P/Tuttle’s debris.
December 22 – December Solstice
The shortest day of the year for us in the Northern Hemisphere happens on December 22 with the December solstice.
This solstice marks the first day of winter in this part of the world, and summer in the southern hemisphere.
We experience solstices twice in a year, and that’s because the Earth’s polar axis is tilted at an angle of 23.5° to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. Now that the Earth’s north pole is tilted away from the Sun, it receives less sunlight and that’s why we’ll be experiencing shorter and cooler days in the coming days.
Sunrise and Sunset Times
December 1 06:49 ↑ 17:33 ↓
December 31 07:06 ↑ 17:44 ↓
December 8 – Full Moon
December 16 – Last Quarter
December 23 – New Moon
December 30 – First Quarter
- Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2022.html
- Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2022&month=12&maxdiff=4 #datesel
- Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, December 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=12&year=2022