Jeffers Foundation



December, 2018

The stars of the Winter Circle are in the east at sunset, crossing the meridian at midnight. Not only does the clear, cold winter air make the stars appear brighter, they are brighter. Many of the brightest stars are found here, as they are our neighbors, huddled along with the Sun on the inside edge of the Orion Spur, of the Perseus Arm of our galaxy. An overhead view of our galaxy shows these stars are closest to our Sun, opposite from the center of our galaxy. While the summertime Milky Way is brighter, our winter neighbors are closer, though not as numerous.

Morning Sky

Mercury starts the month eight degrees above the horizon at sunrise and is joined by the moon on December 5. It climbs to Greatest Western Elongation on December 14 at 21.3 degrees from the Sun, which makes it the best time to view. Look for it eight degrees above the east-southeast horizon one hour before sunrise. Venus is also climbing to Greatest Western Elongation, but won't get there until next month. Regardless, it will be a great time of the year to see it. By mid-month, Venus is standing a full 30 degrees above the horizon at sunrise. The Moon will be nearby on December 3. By the end of the month, Jupiter is climbing higher in the morning sky, appearing 10 degrees above the horizon an hour before sunrise.

Evening Sky

Saturn finishes the year heading into the Sun. Catch it early in the month, when it will be 15 degrees above the southwest horizon at sunset, joined by the Moon on December 8. By year's end, Mars is the last planet standing in the evening sky. It starts in the southeast at sunset and sets in the west each night, just before midnight. The Moon will stop by on December 14.

Sun Declination


7th, New Moon Little Spirit Moon (Ojibwe) - 1:20 am

7th, Mars 0.03 degrees south of Neptune - 8:56 am

8th, Moon near Saturn in southwest - After sunset

12th, Moon apogree (251,765 miles) - 6:25 am

14th, Geminids Meteor Shower peak - 12:20 am

15th, First Quarter Moon - 5:49 am

21st, Mercury 0.87 degrees north of Jupiter - 8:43 am

21st, December solstice; winter begins in N Hemisphere - 4:23 pm

22nd, Ursids Meteor Shower peak - 8:46 am

22nd, Full Moon - 11:49 am

24th, Moon perigee (224,353 miles) - 3:48 am

29th, Last Quarter Moon - 3:34 am

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