Venus starts the month off at maximum brightness. The planet is up in the SW as evening darkness falls. The planet is bright enough that it should be visible about 30 minutes after Sunset. This is the last month of Venus poor evening showing. By the end of the month, Venus will lose altitude fast and start moving into the bright glow of twilight.
Jupiter rises up after 8 pm at the start of the month. Each evening, Jupiter will rise a bit earlier in the ENE. By the end of the month, Jupiter is rising at Dusk. The planet even brightens up a tad as the month progresses. This month is the start of Jupiter's fine evening apparition.
Mars rises after Midnight in the SE. The dull planet is starting to slowly brighten up a bit. Mars is in the Constellation of Virgo. As the month progresses, Mars pass by a few stars. During the 1st few days of the month, Mars is just above Beta Virginis (Zavijava). In the middle of the month (17 / 18 Dec), Mars is just above Eta Virginis (Zaniah). At the end of the month (28 /29 Dec), Mars is just above Gamma Virginis (Porrima).
Saturn rises in the SE as Dawn breaks. The planet is low near the horizon as the Dawn's light brightens up.
Mercury is visible low in the bright SE Dawn light. The planet is way down to the lower left of Saturn. Each morning the planet moves closer to the glare of Sunrise. By 11 December, the planet moves into the bright glow of Sunrise and is lost from view
5 Dec Crescent Moon upper right of Venus, Dusk
13 -14 Dec Geminid Meteor Shower
15 Dec Waxing Moon near Aldebaran, Evening
18 Dec Just past Full Moon to the right of Jupiter, Evening
21 Dec Winter Solstice
Geminid Meteor Shower:
The best meteor shower of December, the Geminids, will peak during the night of 13 / 14 December. Unfortunately the meteor shower will be completely spoiled by the almost Full Moon. The bright Moon will shine for most of the night and ruin the views of the meteors.
Although Venus is having a very poor evening showing; there may be a few interesting "treats" to look for. For the month of December; Venus is bright enough to cast faint shadows. You must be in a clear dark place that is free from Moonlight and well away from any lights to see these faint, wispy shadows.
From 21 December to the end of the month, Venus is close enough to the Earth to exhibit a thin crescent. A very few, sharp eyed individuals may detect the thin Crescent of Venus. For the rest of us, binoculars can be used to see the bright crescent. Binoculars such as 10 x 50 or larger are recommended to see the Crescent of Venus.
Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON):
On 28 Nov. 2013, Comet ISON will make a very close turn by the Sun. The comet will miss the Sun by 724,000 miles or 1,165,000 Kilometers. The big question will be, after the turn: Will Comet ISON survives its close encounter with the hot Sun? For the few days after the sharp turn, the comet will be lost from view in the bright glare of the Sun.
Our first chance to see Comet C/2012 S1 ISON (if it survives) (and if it's bright enough) will be on 1 Dec 2013. On that date, the comet could be visible about 30 minutes before Sunrise in the East. The comet would be very low on the horizon and to the lower left of the Planet Mercury. The comet would only be visible for a few minutes.
A much better chance to see the comet could be on 3 Dec 2013. The comet could be visible about 45 minutes before Sunrise. Each morning, the comet will climb higher in the sky. The bad news is that each passing day, the comet is growing dimmer and dimmer.
There may be a slight chance to see the comet in a dark sky just before Dawn breaks on the 10-14 December. There is also a good chance that by this time; the comet has faded from view. The "Moon Free" comet observing window is from 1- 14 December 2013. After that the Full Moon will spoil the view. We will have to wait and see what the fate of Comet ISON is.
Comet C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy)
There is one comet that is visible to the unaided eye (just barely) and that comet is Comet Lovejoy. This comet is expected to remain near the limit of unaided eye detection during the comet observing window for this month (1-14 December).
The Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy should appear as a faint, elongated stain of light. The comet will be in the Constellation of Bootes during this observation window. Binoculars should enhance the view. In binoculars, the comet should show its roundish head and long, thin faint tail. The author has found that Giant Binoculars such as 20 x 80 really bring out those comet's features.
More updates will be posted on this website as things progress with the comets.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society
PO Box 4508