December- Mars Opposition, Geminid Meteors and Hyades


December 7th,  Mars reaches opposition and Earth passes more or less between Mars and the Sun. This year it will be visible in the constellation Taurus. With a relatively small telescope, the planet’s surface features become visible. Look for three main regions: the polar caps, lighter areas of rust-colored dust, and darker areas of exposed volcanic rock.


On the night of December 14th, the annual Geminids meteor shower will peak. The Geminids are the product of the asteroid Phaethon, a strange blue rock that acts like a comet. Geminids are considered one of the best meteor showers every year because the individual meteors are bright, and are known to produce a lot of fireballs which will help visibility despite the 70% moon illumination this year. The best time to watch for the Geminids on the 14th is in the early evening before the moon rises. But keep in mind that the meteor shower lasts from November 19th to December 24th giving plenty of opportunity to observe.


While you’re observing Mars, take a moment to enjoy the nearby Hyades star cluster. Also in the constellation of Taurus representing the head of the Bull, this V-shaped cluster is a beautiful view for binoculars and the naked eye.