Meteor Outlook for December 2019

December is one of the best months for meteor hunters. Although the nights are cold, they’re long and dark, and we have one of the most active meteor showers of the year to look forward to.

Early in the month, watch out for the Phoenecids (PHO). Researchers think that the Earth may be about to pass through a denser patch of cometary debris on 2nd Dec, with a possible hourly rate of 12 around 21:30UT and a radiant near theta Ceti (much higher than the normal radiant of this shower which is not a northern hemisphere object).

The Geminids (GEM) are the big event of the year, usually producing even greater numbers than the Perseids. The peak this year on 13th/14th Dec is unfortunately close to the Full Moon but Gemini is well placed from 22.00 onward and with an hourly rate of 150, you should spot some meteors in the early evening even against the moonlight. They’re quite slow moving, can be bright and colourful but do not usually leave trails.

Taking into account the moonlight, a realistic rate is between 7 and 10 per hour. The Geminids run from 4th to 17th Dec. The screenshot below shows the radiant high in the East at 22.00 with that annoying Moon just below!

The Ursids (URS) run from 17th to 26th Dec with a peak on 21st/22nd Dec and an hourly rate of around 10, but with a 20% waning crescent Moon and the radiant high in the North near the box of Ursa Minor, observation conditions are good.

Finally although they peak in early January, the Quadrantids (QUA) start in late December. With an hourly rate of 120 and the moon a waxing crescent, there’s a good chance of seeing some if the skies are clear. The radiant is low in the north east.

There are also several minor showers during December. The Monocerotids (MON) peak on the 9th with a rate of two,  the σ-Hydrids (HYD) peak on the 12th with a rate of around three, the Comae Berenicids (COM) peak on the 16th also with a rate of around three, and the December Leonis Minorids (DLM) peak on the 20th with a rate of around 5. None of these are individually spectacular but it does mean there’s almost constant shower activity in December!

If you do see something please send in a report to meteor@popastro.com or use the link on our website to report it via the IMO. When making a report of a sighting, please include the date, time, your location, the direction in which you saw the object, and rough direction it was going in. This can help us link it to other sightings, and maybe even work out more about the meteoroid that caused it.

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