All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book Nightscenes 2020


There will be no printed edition for 2021 but a pdf/kindle version for January to June 2021 is now available from the nightscenes web page.

Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire.  All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.


December 2020
































































Solar System quick summary


Some charts & images in the text can also be clicked to give a larger view.


Jupiter is in conjunction and incredibly close to Saturn on the 21st in the evening twilight! Mars is the other bright evening planet along with the much fainter Ceres, Neptune and Uranus. In the morning sky, Vesta lies in Leo and is a binocular object whilst Venus can be found low in the morning twilight but still viewable. It lies close to Graffias on the 18th whilst the star is occulted by the crescent moon on the 13th. The moon also occults Xi1 Ceti on the 24th with Uranus nearby. The Geminids and Ursids Meteor showers on the 14th & 22nd are favourable to look out for (if clear!).



Main events


The main attraction for the month has to be watching the slow dance of Jupiter and Saturn as they slide into the evening twilight. The last few months have seen them creep closer together as the nearer, and therefore quicker planet, Jupiter catches up to and overtakes its more distant sibling. Look towards the SW for the pair in bright twilight. The crescent moon joins the pair on the early evening of the 17th as shown above.

Above is a wide field, naked eye view showing their motion through the month. As Jupiter and Saturn creep leftwards against the background stars, this whole area of sky is also slipping lower into the  evening twilight so the chart is set for the 21st as a compromise. On this date both planets will be only 6 arc minutes apart and the view below shows how they look at 300x magnification in a large telescope.  

If you do that, then Jupiter’s four Galilean moons of Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto will be visible along with Saturn's largest moon Titan. To the naked eye they may well look like one ‘star’ and one wonders if many will see this as a re-enactment of the ‘star of Bethlehem’ considering the time of year. Low magnification binoculars such as 7x50’s will show both clearly separated for a fine view and over the next week to the end of the month Jupiter will begin to leave Saturn behind but both will still fit in the view of the 15x70 binoculars as they slide into the evening twilight. Overall this will be a stunning event to view regardless of what instrument you use so let us hope for clear skies and a good uncluttered SW horizon! The next time Jupiter and Saturn are close together will be on November 5th 2040 in Virgo in the morning twilight!


With all the fuss about Jupiter and Saturn, don’t forget that Mars is also well placed to view and that Neptune and further across the sky, Uranus are also viewable! 12-Dec-mn-Venus.jpgHowever in the morning sky around 6:30am to 7am, we have dazzling Venus getting lower in the morning sky as it drops into the morning twilight. On the 4th it lies close to Alpha Librae, a nice wide double star for binoculars, then carries on through the constellation. On the12-Dec-mn-graffias.jpg 12th the Crescent Moon lies above right of Venus then the next morning the Crescent Moon occults Beta Scorpii, Graffias but they are very low and for some parts of the British Isles it will happen before they rise. Reappearance is in the almost daylight sky so may be too hard to view. The position of Beta close to the lunar limb for both D & R is shown here and will be best seen with a telescope.


The Moon 12-Dec-Venus-graffias.jpgmoves away but Venus continues to get lower and on the 18th it lies close to and above  Beta Sco as shown in this wide field 7x50 binocular view at right. Below them is the wide double star Omega Sco so the view will look like two double stars but with one of them exceptionally bright! Delta and Nu Sco are also in the view.

Finally with the Moon new on the 14th it is perfect for the Geminids Meteor shower that peak on that morning and conditions are also good for the Ursids meteor shower on the morning of the 22nd too, so a good month for meteor watching! Their radiant's are on the monthly all sky chart.



Also look out for the following:


  3rd  Moon forms triangle with Pollux and Castor (evening)

  4th  Moon lies above M44, Beehive cluster (late evening into next morning)

  5th  Moon lies to the right of Sickle asterism (late evening)

  6th  Moon lies to the left of Regulus (late evening)

  8th  Last Quarter Moon lies close to Vesta & Denebola (early morning)

  9th  Moon lies to upper right of Porrima in Virgo (morning twilight)

10th  Moon lies above Spica (morning twilight)

16th  Slim Crescent Moon lies to lower right of Jupiter & Saturn (evening twilight)

22nd  First Quarter Moon lies in Cetus with Mars to upper left (evening)

24th  Moon occults Xi1 Cetii, also forms triangle with Mars and Uranus (evening)

26th  Moon forms wide triangle with M45 and Aldebaran (evening)

27th  Moon lies close to Hyades and above Aldebaran (evening)

30th  Moon again forms triangle with Pollux and Castor (late evening)



Clear skies, happy sky watching and stay safe!



Paul







Webmaster  © Paul L Money 2020


The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2020

12-Dec-2020.jpg

The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st. Winter officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere whilst Summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere.