December gifts us with unique celestial events

Kyra Abbott ‘24, Student Life Editor

December holds some fascinating opportunities for people to witness the beauty of the night sky. There are three major astronomical occurrences within this month: a total eclipse, the Geminid meteor shower, and a full moon. 

The first event that took place was the last total eclipse of the year. This occurred on Dec. 4, and “[was] visible only from the icy continent of Antarctica,”’s skwatching columnist, Joe Rao, said. In Antarctica, a person on Earth was not able to see the sun, for the moon passed between the earth and the sun. Although the view of the eclipse was most prominent in Antarctica, the geographical regions that got hit with the shadow of the eclipse included: South Africa and the southern portion of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The second event that takes place is the Geminid meteor shower. Although the meteor shower began on Dec. 4, it will continue through Dec. 17. However, the meteor shower will reach its most magnificent level on Dec. 14. Due to the long length of time before the meteor shower ends, it is evident that the meteors are not moving very fast — only 60 to 120 miles every hour. Usually, this meteor shower is one of the only showers that can be vividly seen under dark night conditions. However, due to the gibbous state of the moon, — during the peak night on Dec. 14 —  there will be too much light to observe the meteors clearly before midnight. Therefore, “viewers should aim to observe the sky in the dark hours before dawn after the moon has set on the morning of, [Dec. 14] when as many as 150 meteors will illuminate the night sky,” Smithsonian Magazine said. Although this meteor shower will be more prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, it will also be visible in the Southern Hemisphere. During that night, the sky will rain down green fireballs followed by a trail of dust; this structure creates an entertaining light show for Earth’s stargazers.   

The third event that takes place is the final full moon of the year. The moon will reach its fullest state on Dec. 18 at 11:35 p.m.. This full moon, in particular, gets many names. Inverse, a digital science magazine, said, “The year’s final Full Moon is known as a Cold Moon, Oak Moon, Moon before Yule, and Long Night Moon.” Its dominant name, however, is just Cold Moon because December is the first month that starts to get frigid and possibly even snowy. 

December allows people to realize the potential of the universe and to enjoy the natural beauty of the night sky. So, grab any telescopes, chairs, or binoculars to take in the splendor of the lights in the pitch black sky.

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