The Meteors, Asteroids, and Planets You Can Photograph in December

NASA has shared its monthly update for what skygazers should look for in the night sky in December.

First seen on Digital Trends, the main draw this month is the Geminid meteor shower.

December 2023 Night Sky

“The Geminid meteors peak overnight tonight. Northern Hemisphere observers can look for meteors as early as 9 or 10 PM., with the hourly number increasing after midnight,” writes NASA. “Dress warmly, get away from bright lights, and take in as much of the sky as possible. Meteors will fall all over the sky.”

The Planetary Society explains that the Geminids are expected to produce up to 120 meteors per hour when viewed at a dark site. Further, the waxing crescent Moon during that time won’t disrupt the night sky, so 2023 is an excellent year for observing and photographing the Geminids.

Capturing meteors with a camera is no easy feat, but good preparation will go a long way toward getting great photos. Photographers must find a clear, dark sky, and ensure that their camera is stable. Since meteors are unpredictable, long exposures are often the best way to capture the streaks across the sky. Often, a wide-angle lens is a good choice as it offers the most expansive view of the sky.

December 2023 Night Sky

Other night sky photo opportunities this month include the slimming crescent Moon rising from December 7-10 alongside Venus and the bright star Spica. This will be viewable in the eastern sky during the couple of hours before sunrise.

Following sunset on December 17th, photographers should watch the crescent Moon, which will be very close to Saturn in the southwest. Binoculars or a small telescope — or a long lens — may allow viewers to spy Saturn’s giant moon, Titan, as a faint dot next to the planet.

December 2023 Night Sky

Another planetary viewing opportunity arrives on December 21 when Jupiter is clearly to the increasingly full Moon in the southeast. They will travel across the night sky, practically in tandem, throughout the night.

December 2023 Night Sky

Throughout December, amateur astronomers can enjoy observing the Vesta asteroid. It is at opposition, meaning it is on the opposite side of Earth and the Sun. Vesta is at its brightest and closest position of 2023. “Look for it to move northward in the sky between Gemini and Orion during the month. Use your favorite skywatching app to locate its precise position on the night you’re observing,” NASA explains.

Image credits: Featured photo licensed via Depositphotos. The images in the article are courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.