In early December, dawn begins at about 6:15 a.m., sunrise is at 7:17 a.m., midday is at 12:04 p.m., sunset is at 4:51 p.m. and dusk ends at 5:55 p.m., with 9 hours and 35 minutes of sunlight.
The sun is in front of Ophiuchus (Serpent Bearer) through Dec. 17, then moves into Sagittarius for the rest of December.
Winter starts on Dec. 21, with the sun farthest south with the lowest sky path.
At the end of December, dawn begins at 6:30 a.m., sunrise is at 7:36 a.m., midday is at 12:18 p.m., sunset is at 5 p.m. and dusk ends at 6:05 p.m., with 9 hours and 26 minutes of sunlight.
The principal phases of the moon in December are: last quarter (morning half moon) on Dec. 7, new moon (in line with the sun) on Dec. 14; first quarter (half-full evening moon) on Dec. 21 and full moon (seen all night) on Dec. 29.
On December evenings, the Big Dipper (seven stars) seems to be stuck in the ground in the north. By spring evenings, the Big Dipper will be high in the north and dumping into the Little Dipper. The end stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl make a line that points to the North Star.
December is the month when Orion, the brightest star group, appears in the southeastern evening sky.
Orion’s trademark is his belt of three stars in a row. Above the belt is the bright pink star Betelgeuse; below is the bright white-blue star Rigel.
Orion’s two brightest stars make a line that points upward to Gemini, whose stars form two stick men. On the night of Dec. 13 to 14, there is the Geminid meteor shower, whose meteors seem to streak out of Gemini.
This night is favorable for meteor watching since the moon will be new (in line with the sun) and out of sight.
On Dec. 17, the crescent moon will appear to the left of Jupiter and Saturn, low in the southwestern dusk. On Dec. 21 at dusk, Jupiter and Saturn will nearly merge and are best seen with binoculars.
There is no danger of a collision as the two planets are lined up only as seen from Earth, but are actually about 400 million miles apart.
For more information about space, contact Dr. Bob Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sky Sights is written by Dr. Bob Doyle, professor emeritus of Frostburg State University. Doyle taught at FSU and was its planetarium director for more than 40 years.