Planning a stargazing event in December? Wondering what to look for?
If you’re stargazing in December, you can check out these constellations: Aside from year-round favorites like the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, You can view Draco, Aries, Cassiopeia, Perseus, and many more.
This article tells you about some of the constellations visible in the December sky, including where you can find them, how you can track them, and the history behind them.
Constellations in December
Constellation #1: Aries
Aries is one of the brightest and most visible constllations in the December night sky. It can be found near the Zenith during much of the month of December.
Aries is the second-smallest constellation in the Zodiac.
History and Mythology of Aries:
Aries, known as the Ram, became the Zodiac symbol from March 21 to April 19 in the 1800s, when the sun was found bracketed by the constellation on the spring solstice.
However, 6,000 years ago, it was the sign of the winter solstice, and it’s winter that the Ram shines the brightest.
According to Egyptian Mythology, Aries is the celestial representation of Amon Ra, their principal god.
In Greek Mythology, Aries was the Golden Ram sent by Hermes to rescue the children Phrixus and Helle from their cruel stepmother.
Though Helle fell into what became known as the Sea of Helle, Phrixus remained safe until he arrived in Colchis.
After his arrival, Phrixus and King Aetes (who gave him sanctuary) sacrificed the ram and hung it’s fleece in a grove guarded by a dragon.
The fleece remained there until it was taken by Jason and his Argonauts.
How to Find Aries:
If you’re using the official location, you’ll need to look at the following coordinates:
RA: Between 1h 46.4m – 3h 29.4m
Declination: Between +10.36 – +31.22 degrees
If you’re planning on using the sky-hopping method, you can find it between and just above Pisces and Taurus, and directly over the northernmost part of Cetus.
This constellation also just to the right of the Plieades, a well known star cluster.
The shape of Aries is best described as an angled line, with the a near-hook shape at the lower end. It can also be described as the shape of a ram’s back, as it lowers its head to charge.
Constellation #2: Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia is one of the most recognizable constellations in the December sky, with its distinctive ‘M’ shape – or ‘W’ shape, depending on the angle of its position.
History and Mythology of Cassiopeia:
Cassiopeia’s prominence made it a well known constellation for many ancient cultures. The Chinese named it after a famous character called Wang Liang.
The Egyptians called it the Leg, an instrument under the control of Set, the treacherous god who killed Osiris.
The Celts called it Llys Don – home of the fairies.
The official name, hoever, comes from Greek Mythology. According to the story, Cassiopeia was a boastful queen who angered the gods.
In one version of the myth, her words angered the Neriads of the sea, who complained to Posiedon.
Posiedon sent a sea monster to ravage the coasts, demanding the sacrifice of Cassiopeia’s daughter Andromeda.
Andromeda was saved by Perseus, but Cassiopeia was punished for her presumption.
According to another story, Cassiopeia was chained to her throne and positioned to hang in an undignified manner as a warning against pride.
How to Find Cassiopeia:
Because of it’s distinctive shape, Cassiopeia is one of the easiest constellations to find.
If you’re looking for it for the first time, you can use the official coordinates:
RA: Between 22h 57m 4s – 3h 41m 14s
Declination: Between +44 – +78 degrees
If you’re looking for Cassiopeia via the skyhopping method, your best bet is to find the North Star, Polaris.
The center of Cassiopeia is on an almost direct line from Polaris, opposite Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper.
Constellation #3: Perseus
Perseus is one of the largest of the Northern Sky constellations.
It’s best known for being the constellation through which the Perseid Meteor Shower passes each year.
It’s considered to be one of the best constellations for viewing in December, being extremely bright and near the Zenith point at that time.
History and Mythology of Perseus:
According to Greek Mythology, Perseus was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, whose grandfather set him them both adrift in a trunk after being told his grandson would one day kill him.
Mother and son wound up on an island, ruled by King Polydectes.
Polydectes sent Perseus on the quest to slay the Gorgon, in order to get him out of the way so he could pursue Perseus’s mother.
In his quest Perseus was aided by Hermes and Athena, and given magical tools and advice on how to defeat the Gorgon.
He followed their instructions and successfully slew the Gorgon, which resulted in the birth of Pegasus.
He returned to Polydectes after many other adventures, including the rescue of Andromeda, and used the Gorgon’s head to turn the king and his court to stone.
He married Andromeda and together they had a son.
How to Find Perseus:
If you’re looking for Perseus via official coordinates, you’ll find it here:
RA: Between 1h 29.1m – 4h 51.2m
Declination: Between +30.92 – +59.11 degrees
If you’re looking for Perseus with the skyhopping method, you’ll find it between Cassiopeia and Taurus. These two constellations have distinctive shapes that make them fairly easy to find.
Taurus is found to the south of Perseus, and Cassiopeia to the north.
You’ll also find it between Andromeda and Auriga, with Auriga to the east and Andromeda to the west.
In shape, Perseus looks a little bit like a stick figure holding one arm out. The northwestern most star is right next to plantary nebula M76.
In some ways, the main body of Perseus resembles Taurus, turned 90 degrees. However, where Taurus’s V shape terminates in points, Perseus’s V has two distinct ‘feet’ pointing west.
Perseus, Cassiopeia and Aries may be some of the most prominent constellations in the December sky, but they’re far from the only ones.
Pisces, Andromeda, Pegasus, Triangulum (obscure), Auriga, Gemini, Draco, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor…all of these and more are visible in the December sky, depending on what day and time you go stargazing.
If you want to know what’s in the sky at a given time, a planisphere is an easy way to tell.
There are phone apps as well, but a planisphere doesn’t need batteries, and it can be an enjoyable way to explore the sky.
You might also like:
- Constellations For January
- Constellations For February
- Constellations For March
- Constellations For April
- Constellations For May
- Constellations For June
- Constellations For July
- Constellations For August
- Constellations For September
- Constellations For October
- Constellations For November
- Constellations For December
- What Are Circumpolar Stars?