As Venus, Saturn and Jupiter appear in the night sky, the month of December is full of celestial events one after another. From a Total Solar Eclipse to chances of catching a comet passing through the night sky, stargazers are in for a month of deep space observations.
TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE ON DECEMBER 4
The last solar eclipse of the year will take place on December 4 and will be visible in several parts of the world. While Antarctica will be the only place to see the Total Solar Eclipse, people living in the southern hemisphere will be able to glimpse a partial solar eclipse.
A Total Solar Eclipse occurs when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are aligned directly. People in the path of a total solar eclipse can see the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere, which is otherwise usually obscured by the bright face of the Sun.
The December 4 Total Solar Eclipse will begin at 10:59 am IST and the full eclipse will be visible at 12:30 pm IST. The maximum eclipse will be seen at 01:03 pm and the event will come to an end at 3:07 pm.
VENUS, JUPITER SATURN AND MOON TO APPEAR OVER THE WEEK
According to Nasa, from December 6 to December 10 the Moon will look to be visiting its cosmic neighbours Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter. The crescent of the Moon will appear higher in the sky each evening over the course of the week. The agency added that while the Moon will appear higher, Venus will sink even closer to the horizon during the month, disappearing by New Year only to reappear in late January as a morning planet preceding the sunrise.
COMET LEONARD TO VISIT INNER SOLAR SYSTEM
December 12 will see the recently discovered comet Leonard pass through our night sky on its way to the inner solar system. The comet will get closer to the Sun in the next couple of weeks after passing by Earth. Nasa has said that the comet Leonard could be one of the brightest objects to be seen in the skies this month and could likely be seen by the naked eye.
The comet will be seen in the east before sunrise, passing between Arcturus and the handle of the Big Dipper. It will approach the horizon right around the time of its closest approach to Earth and be brighter but more challenging to observe. Nasa said that it will switch over to being an evening object after around December 14 for just a little while after the Sun sets as it begins its long haul outward from the Sun again.
GEMINID METEORS SHOWERS TO SHINE IN DECEMBER SKIES
While comet Leonard will pass through, it will set the skies for the Geminid meteors that will peak around December 13 and 14. They first appeared in the 1800s with just 10-20 meteors seen per hour, since then, they have grown to become one of the major showers of the year. During its peak, 120 Geminid meteors can be seen per hour under perfect conditions.
The Geminids come from leftover comet particles and bits from asteroids. As they come around the sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them. Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colourful streaks in the sky.
According to Nasa, the meteors originate from an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon that takes 1.4 years to orbit the sun once.