WELCOME TO the December night sky. The bright planet Venus is still well visible low in the south west, just after sunset.
For the first half of the month, Venus is high enough at dusk to be mistaken for a Christmas Star, but, in the second half of December, it rapidly drops towards the horizon with each passing night.
On December 4, a thin crescent Moon will be seen close to the planet. With a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars, it may be possible to see the phase of Venus at this time, as it will appear also as a crescent.
The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak on the night of December 14, but, unfortunately, the nearly Full Moon will blot out all but the brightest meteors. On Thursday 22, there is a small meteor shower called the Ursids, which may produce a shooting star every 10 minutes or so with luck.
The planet Mars is still in the constellation of Aries but getting noticeably dimmer now as it draws further away from Earth.
In the late evening, the ringed planet Saturn can be seen rising in the east. Saturn is in the constellation of Cancer the Crab and its golden yellow colour helps to identify it against the background stars.
The Moon is New twice in December, 1 and 31, First Quarter on 8, Full on 15 and Last Quarter on 23.
• Clive Jackson is the director of the Astronomical Observatory of Tavira (Sítio do Malhão) and the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach. Tel 281 321 754, Fax 281 324 688, e-mail [email protected] – visit www.cdepa.pt