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Sky Guide: December


Welcome to the Sky Guide, your monthly guide to what's happening in the heavens!
Check out the printable version here:  December-Sky-Guide.pdf






3rd Quarter

New Moon

1st Quarter

Full Moon



Friday 7

Sunday 16

Sunday 23

Saturday 29



Saturday 1

Saturday 15

Monday 31












Planets Whetū Ao:




Early December before sunrise

Mid December before sunrise

Late December before sunrise



Early December before 2.30am

Mid December before 2.00am

Late December before 1.00am

In Libra

In Aquirius









Despite being the second smallest planet, Mars is home to the largest volcano in our solar system. Called Olympus Mons, it is 27 km high – three times higher than Mount Everest!

Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system. Its thick atmosphere holds in heat, making the surface temperature 471°C all year round. Venus doesn’t tilt on its axis so it has no seasons like we have here on Earth.





Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor

Orion was the son of Poseidon. Considered a handsome giant and a great hunter, he retired to the island of Crete after an eventful early life, where he became a hunting companion of the goddess Artemis.


Orion has two hunting dogs in the night sky. The larger of the two, known as Canis Major, represents Laelaps, a magical dog destined to catch whatever he set out to hunt. Laelaps was set after a magical fox represented by Canis Minor. This fox was destined to never be caught, and so both creatures are now stuck in a never-ending chase across the sky.


The three constellations can be found in a triangle in the night sky. To locate Orion (highlighted in yellow on the star chart), first find the three stars in a row that make up his belt. From there, look south-east until you see Sirius – also known as the Dog Star – in Canis Major. This is the brightest star in the night sky. From Sirius, scan north-east to find Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor.


 Orion constellation

Image: Orion constellation from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius. Public Domain Mark.


Taurus and the Pleiades

Taurus represents the handsome Cretan Bull created by Poseidon. Queen Pasiphae fell in love with the bull and together they had a bull-headed child called Minotauros.

The great hero Heracles was commanded to catch the bull as part of his 12 labours. After being released, the bull caused havoc in a small town until it was finally killed by another hero, Theseus, and placed among the stars.

To the north-west of Taurus is a group of stars called the Pleiades, said to represent seven nymphs, who were the daughters of the mighty titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione. Pursued by Orion, the terrified nymphs begged for help from Zeus. To save them, he placed them into the sky as stars.

To find Taurus, look to the north-west of the belt of Orion until you find the large red star Aldebaran. This is the angry eye of the bull. Travel north-west of this star to find the Pleiades.


Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is a massive star-forming cloud of gas located in the Orion constellation. Although visible to the naked eye today, there is no mention of it before 1610. This might mean that its luminosity is a recent phenomenon caused by newly formed stars in the region. Many of these stars have disks of debris surrounding them, which is an indicator of early planet formation.

The Orion Nebula is easy to find and can be seen in more detail with a pair of binoculars or a telescope. Locate the three bright stars that make up Orion’s belt and look south to find three fainter stars in a vertical line (which make up Orion’s sword). The middle star of these three is the Orion Nebula (highlighted in pink on the star chart). The first nebula to ever be photographed (in 1880), it’s a good starting place for budding astrophotographers.


Top image: Orion Nebula. By NASA. Public Domain Mark.