Podcaster: Rob Webb

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Title: Observing With Webb in December 2021

Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School

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follow me : @MrWebbPV on Twitter and Instagram

This podcast is found on: Podbean page, Stitcher, and iTunes.  There’s also a video version on YouTube Channel.

The Pequea Valley Planetarium and its events and updates are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @pvplanetarium.


Why get out there in the cold of December?  It’s a time of transitions and wonder.  We’ve got a meteor shower, plenty of lunar encounters, potentially a comet, planets visible but changing, and very long nights.

Today’s sponsor:  Big thanks to our Patreon supporters this month: Rob Leeson, David Bowes, Brett Duane, Benett Bolek, Mary Ann, Frank Frankovic, Michael Freedman, Kim Hay, Steven Emert, Frank Tippin, Rani Bush, Jako Danar, Joseph J. Biernat, Nik Whitehead, Michael W, Cherry Wood, Steve Nerlich, Steven Kluth, James K Wood, Katrina Ince, Phyllis Foster, Don Swartwout, Barbara Geier, Steven Jansen

Today’s sponsor: Big thanks to our Patreon supporters this month: David Bowes, Dustin A Ruoff, Brett Duane, Kim Hay, Nik Whitehead, Timo Sievänen, Michael Freedman, Paul Fischer, Rani Bush, Karl Bewley, Joko Danar, Steven Emert, Frank Tippin, Steven Jansen, Barbara Geier, Don Swartwout, James K. Wood, Katrina Ince, Michael Lewinger, Phyllis Simon Foster, Nicolo DePierro, Tim Smith, Frank Frankovic, Steve Nerlich, Zoe and Lea, Benett Bolek, Michel, Marry Ann.

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Why get out there in the cold of December?  It’s a time of transitions and wonder.  We’ve got a meteor shower, plenty of lunar encounters, potentially a comet, planets visible but changing, and very long nights.

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night. 

Naked-eye PLANETS

Sunset – Venus, Saturn, Jupiter

  • Venus (SW) – For the LAST month, Venus stays about 10˚ above the horizon at sunset, setting around 7:30pm, almost all December, but dives toward the horizon around Christmas time.  At this point it will be too close to the Sun to see until it pops up in the SE in the mornings of mid-January. 
  • Saturn, Jupiter (SW) – Throughout December, Saturn and Jupiter will appear in the Southwest right as it gets dark, but each night they will get lower in the sky and set earlier and earlier.  Jupiter will be the bright point of light on the left, with Saturn about 15˚ to the right.  

Throughout the night – None

Morning – Mars

  • Mars (SE) – Mars starts December VERY low on the morning SE horizon.  It’ll be interesting to see what day we will finally be able to see it clearly in the dawn twilight.  In fact, it doesn’t even progress much higher throughout January, staying about 10-15˚ above the horizon.  Mars will be a challenge, but should get easier in the new year.


Morning Crescents (look East in the AM)

New Moon – 4th (darkest skies)

Evening Crescents (look West after Sunset)

First Quarter Moon – 10th (Visible until midnight)

Evening Gibbous (Mostly lit, after Sunset)

Full Moon – 18th (Visible all night)

Waning Gibbous (Mostly lit, rises later at night)

Last Quarter Moon – 26th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

Morning Crescents (look East in the AM)

Comet Leonard – There is much to say about an comet; it’s track, speed, brightness.  Many variables interfere with being able to say what you’re going to see, if you even see it at all.  At this time, keep an eye out and ears open on social media regarding this comet.  It passes closest to us on the 12th, and might just become naked-eye visible at some point this month, but there’s more to consider.  When will the Moon be up?  How close to the horizon will it be?  Will it get lost in dusk?

December 6th – 10thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter – What a great 5 days of lunar encounters!  We know the planetary setup from the past couple months.  Venus is low in the SW, but SUPER bright and easy to find.  Hold your fist out in front of you with your pinky and pointer fingers extended, and move one width (15˚) up and to the left and you’ll find Saturn.  Go another 15˚ and you’ll see much brighter Jupiter.  But starting on the 6th, a very thin crescent Moon joins this party.  On the 6th, the Moon is just 4˚ below Venus.   Each night the Moon will move to the left 13˚, and get a bit thicker.  Hence, on the 7th, it will be 6˚ below Saturn.  On the 8th 8˚ below and to the right of Jupiter.  On the 9th, about the same distance away from Jupiter, but to the left.  Finally, on the 10th, the Moon starts migrating away from our bright planets, being about 15˚ away from Jupiter, making a nice evenly spaced line up of celestial objects.

December 13th – 14thGeminid Meteor Shower – This is a decent year for the strongest annual meteor shower known as the Geminids, especially if you don’t mind getting up early.  The waxing gibbous Moon will make evening observing less fruitful, given its light pollution, but it will set around 3am, which is also when the peak will occur.  So get out there in the morning and take advantage of the possible 150 meteors per hour!  But be well prepared…

When? The peak is the morning of December 14th, 2am local time.  Commit yourself to staying out at least 20 minutes.

Where do I go? Dark area, away from lights, comfortable chair, pool float, hammock.

Where do I look? The whole sky, but note Gemini is where the radiant is – where the meteors will appear to be coming from. Gemini will be in the East after sunset, South after midnight, West in the morning.

Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear

BUNDLE UP! Far more layers than you think.

Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources for 20 minutes or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something. 

If you’re feeling extra nerdy, do a scientific meteor count (S&T and IMO)

December 21stWinter Solstice – The longest night and shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. More info here:

December 31stClose Encounter – Moon, Mars, Antares – After 5:30am, but before sunrise, find a great view of the SE horizon, and you’ll find a VERY thin crescent Moon, with ruddy red Mars just below it and to the left, and Antares (known as the “rival of Mars”) just below and to the right of the Moon.


Use a sky map from to help you out.

After Dinner:

Cassiopeia, Andromeda, & Perseus -Look pretty much straight up you’ll be able to see Andromeda curving off of one corner of Pegasus. If your skies are decently dark, you might catch the faint fuzz that is the Andromeda Galaxy.  Cassiopeia will be relatively easy to find as the “W” in the sky, whose right angle points right to Andromeda and her galaxy.  Perseus is the other cornucopia-shaped constellation, but opposite of Andromeda, with its curves emptying out toward the Pleiades

Before Bed:

Taurus & the Pleiades – Look almost straight up, but down toward the South a little bit and you’ll find the lovely cluster of stars known as the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, Subaru, or the mini-mini-dipper. You can easily see 5 or 6 of them with the unaided eye, and perhaps a 7th, depending on light pollution and your eyes.  To the left about 5˚ will be the V constellation of Taurus the bull, with bright red Aldebaran as its brightest, and one eye of the bull. Oh, and if you follow a line connecting these two to the left about 10˚, you’ll find Orion.

Before Work:

Leo – Look South, halfway up the sky, to find the backward question mark and right triangle that is Leo the Lion.

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