The 2020 WINTER STAR PARTY is scheduled for February 17th - 23rd.    REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN


SCAS DECEMBER 2019 - Barb Yager

Lunar Timetable

First Quarter Moon Image
First Quarter Moon December 4th @ 1:58 am
Full Moon Image
Full Moon December 12th @ 12:12 am
Last Quarter Moon Image
Last Quarter Moon November 18th @ 11:57 pm
New Moon Image
New Moon December 26th @ 12:13 am


The famous Geminid meteor shower will sling bright shooting stars this winter, though a just-past-full moon will make all but the brightest hard to see.
The Geminids are considered one of the best meteor showers every year because the individual meteors are bright, and they come fast and furious. This year, because of the moonlight, around 20-30 may be visible per hour.

The Geminids are associated with the near-Earth object 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid that may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into — creating the meteor shower. 

The asteroid orbits the sun every 1.4 years. It occasionally comes close to Earth (at a safe distance) and also passes very close to the sun, inside of Mercury's orbit and only 0.15 astronomical units from the sun. (An astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and the Earth: about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers.)

The Geminid meteor shower is nearly 200 years old, according to known records — the first recorded observation was in 1833 from a riverboat on the Mississippi River — and is still going strong. In fact, it's growing stronger. That's because Jupiter's gravity has tugged the stream of particles from the shower's source, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, closer to Earth over the centuries. 


The Ursids produce a handful of meteors or shooting stars every hour, usually in the range of five to 10 per hour. A nearly moonless sky means good viewing, despite the low.

The Ursids are associated with Comet 8P/Tuttle, which was discovered in 1790 and then re-discovered by Horace Tuttle in 1858. It goes around the sun every 14 years and is not a very bright comet, due to its many trips around the sun.
The Ursids occur when Earth passes through the trail of dust and debris left along the comet's orbit.

The shower itself was first recorded in England in 1900, and also spotted in Germany in the decades following. 

Here are some tips on how to maximize your time looking for meteors and fireballs during December:

  • Get out of the city to a place where city and artificial lights do not impede your viewing
  • If you are out viewing the shower during its peak, you will not need any special equipment. You should be able to see the shower with your naked eyes.
  • Carry a blanket or a comfortable chair with you - viewing meteors, just like any other kind of star gazing is a waiting game, and you need to be comfortable. Plus, you may not want to leave until you can't see the majestic celestial fireworks anymore.


Clear Sky Clock



Winter Solstice     2 Meteor Showers   Saturn/Venus Conjunction
Early December 5 planets arc across the sky in the SW.
Left to right: Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, Venus ,and Jupiter
01- 07: Planetary line up 18 degrees in length in Sagittarius- Saturn (top), Venus, Jupiter (low) in the SW.
02- M-22 is 1 degree above Venus. Great photo op.
10- Venus/Saturn conjunction 1.8 degree apart. Jupiter lies on the SW horizon.
11- The bright Moon floats above Aldebaran in Taurus, Bull  in the east.
12- The Frost Moon is almost full and rises in ENE about sunset.
13- Mid-late evening, early GEMINID METEORS may be visible radiating from Gemini in the NE near the Moon. Jupiter is lost in the sunset.
18- LAST QUARTER MOON- 11:57 p.m. rises after midnight.
21- WINTER SOLSTICE occurs 11:19 P.M. when the Sun arrives at the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. Daylight is shortest and nights longest in the northern hemisphere.
22/23- URSID METEOR SHOWER radiates from Polaris, North Star. 25 Ursids per/hr. may be visible all night.
27- The young Moon lies 4 degrees above Saturn low in the SW.
28- At dusk the crescent Moon is 2 degrees below Venus in Capricornus. Focus binoculars on dark lunar Earthshine. 
31- Tonight the Moon drifts into Aquarius, between Fomalhaut (below) and Neptune (above).


Gigantic Orion, the Hunter reclines in the east early evening, but strides into the south by Midnight in pursuit of the Bull. The Great Orion Nebula glows from his sword. Procyon, the Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius, Orion's Big Dog, trots along the SE horizon. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus the Bull higher in the east. Ruddy Aldebaran (Bull's red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades star cluster (Bull's face). The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda with Galaxy      M-31, and Perseus. Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, higher in the NE. The Gemini Twins: Castor & Pollux climb higher in the NE. Overhead Aries the Ram chases Pegasus, the Winged Horse, westward. Hercules leads Vega and the vast Summer Triangle onto the NW horizon. In the Triangle, Cygnus, the Swan is the Northern Cross.
NEPTUNE sets by Midnight. Blue-green URANUS glows in the SE by mid-evening. JUPITER disappears 12/12.



Ruddy Mars rises earley in the morning. Mercury shimmers below Mars in the SE before dawn.
04- FIRST QUARTER MOON 11:58 a.m.
05- A celestial line up occurs in the SE: Spica in Virgo (top) Mars in the middle and Mercury (below).
12- The FROST Moon is full at 12:12 a.m. and sets in the WNW at dawn.
13/14- The GEMINID METEOR SHOWER is most intense Midnight - 4 a.m. radiating from the Gemini Twins about 20 per/hr.  Earth cruises through the dust tail of a "dead comet" 3200  Phaethon. Bright `earth-grazers' may be visible zipping along the eastern horizon prior to the shower. Some Geminids may be visible before and after the dates of the shower. Bright Moonlight will interfere.  
16- Waning Moon leads Leo, Lion toward the Zenith. The Big Dipper rises in the NE. 
22- At dawn, the old Moon leads Mars and Scorpius higher in the SE.
24- Mercury sets on the SE horizon.
26- New Moon occurs 12:13 a.m.
30- At dawn Mars leads huge  Scorpius higher in the SE. Antares (red super giant) is the "heart" beating in the Scorpion's torso.




Orion, the Hunter, slides below the western horizon. Procyon, the Little Dog follows Orion. The Gemini Twins stand on the western horizon. Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer lower in the NW. Leo the Lion crawls westward. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Bright Arcturus sparkles near the Zenith. Corvus, the Crow flies ahead of Spica in Virgo in the south. The stars of Libra shimmer in the SE.  Bright Vega, in Lyra the Harp, brings the Summer Triangle into view low in the NE.
Mercury rises about 6:30 a.m. and Mars rises 4:30 a.m., both in Libra. Uranus sets after midnight.
 The 2020 WINTER STAR PARTY is scheduled for February 17th - 23rd.    REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN