December 2013 Night Photography Events Calendar

Each month I post a monthly night photography events calendar on the first day of the month. Events listed on the calendar are suitable for wide-field and moderate-telephoto astrophotography, as well as for general night photography. Unless otherwise stated, all events occur in the United States at mid-latitudes. Most of the events also occur at other locations, although some of them may require correction for latitude and longitude. The position of the Moon relative to the planets and stars changes throughout the night. Generally, when a position is given, it is for the period about 45 minutes after sunset or 45 minutes before sunrise. Do not confuse the time for the Full Moon phase for the time of Moonrise.

If you sign up for my free Night Photography News eNewsletter, you’ll receive each calendar two weeks early, on the 15th of the preceeding month. This will give you more time to plan your night shooting.

Note: The Comet ISON entry was made in mid-November. As of November 30, it appears that at least a small fragment of the comet did survive, but it is unknown whether it will become a suitable target for photography, or even for viewing with optical aid.

Times are Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5)

First half Mercury is low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. It shines at about magnitude  -0.7.
All month ? Will Comet ISON survive its close encounter with the Sun on November 28? And if it does, how bright will it be? Will we be able to photograph it with standard cameras and lenses? Assuming it survives and is bright enough to see, on December 1 it will be very low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Each morning it will rise a little earlier and appear higher (but fainter) in the sky at dawn. By the last week of the month, it  will be visible all night.
All month Orion, the night sky’s brightest and most prominent constellation, rises about 2 hours after sunset during early December and around sunset at the end of the month. During December and January, Orion is visible nearly all night long and makes a great complement to a wide-angle night-sky image, as well as being a terrific principal subject.
All month Venus is the brilliant “Evening Star”, appearing as brightly as it ever does (magnitude -4.9 early in the month). It shines low in the dusk sky to the Southwest and makes a great complement to a twilight landscape scene.
All month Jupiter rises shortly after sunset toward the East, shines brightly all night long, and is seen in the morning sky toward the West. It will make a nice complement to dusk and dawn landscape scenes, as well as a bright complement to night-sky scenes. It is the brightest object in the night sky besides the Moon and Venus.
All month Rusty-colored Mars rises in the middle of the night and is shining high in the southeast sky at dawn, growing in brightness from about magnitude 1.2 to 0.9. At dawn, it is too high in the sky to effectively include in a landscape scene.
All month Saturn is low on the horizon in the southeastern dawn sky, shining at magnitude 0.6.
All month The Christmas holiday is celebrated in many of the world’s countries. Christmas light displays make great photo opportunities for night photographers. As with any night photo of manmade lights, the best images are often made during the twilight period, when the illumination in the sky equals that from the lights.
1 A very thin Crescent Moon shines low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Saturn lies above the Moon, while Mercury lies below it.
2 New Moon at 7:23pm. Don’t forget, the best time to shoot the stars (either as pinpoints or star trails) is when there is no light pollution from the Moon.
4 A very thin Crescent Moon shines low on the horizon in the dusk twilight sky, looking West-Southwest. Venus lies to the upper left of the Moon.
5 The thin Crescent Moon shines in the dusk twilight sky, looking West-Southwest. Venus lies to the lower left.
6 The thin Crescent Moon shines in the dusk twilight sky, looking West-Southwest. Venus lies to the lower right.
9 First Quarter Moon at 10:12am.
13 – 14 The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks. Geminids are active for several days before and a couple days after the peak. This is among the best meteor showers of the year, producing around 120 meteors per hour in ideal viewing conditions, but the waxing Gibbous Moon interferes this year. The Moon sets at 4:55am on the morning of the 14th, leaving about 75 minutes of dark-sky viewing before twilight. When the Moon is up, you’ll still be able to see the brightest meteors, particularly if you look away from the Moon. Unlike most meteor showers, which don’t become very active until after midnight, the Geminids will become visible soon after nightfall on the 13th.
17 Full Moon at 4:29am. Don’t forget, in addition to including the Full Moon as a complement to a landscape or urban scene, you can use the light from the Full (or nearly full) Moon to illuminate your scene.
21 Winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere at the solstice, 12:11pm, while summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere. In the NH, it’s the shortest day of the year and the longest night. More time for night photos!
25 Third Quarter Moon at 8:48am.
28 The Crescent Moon shines in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Saturn lies to the lower left of the Moon.
29 The thin Crescent Moon shines in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Saturn lies to the upper right of the Moon.
30 A very thin Crescent Moon shines low in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Saturn lies to the upper right.
31 New Year’s Eve is celebrated in many countries with fireworks and other light displays which can make great night photo opportunities. Just keep in mind that the quantity of alcohol consumed is directly associated with the quality of images created. In this case, less equals more!
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