December 2014 Night Photography Events Calendar

Each month I post a monthly night photography events calendar on the first day of the month. Events listed on this 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 times of the Moon phases for the times of Moonrise and Moonset. Consult local charts for rise and set times.

December heralds the winter night-photography season, with long cold nights for those in middle and upper latitudes. It’s a great month for night photography! In addition to the long nights, the cold temps mean less noise. The annual Geminid meteor shower shares rank with the Perseids as the best shower of the year. In those countries that celebrate Christmas, you’ll find light displays in nearly every city and town and at many residences. Orion lights up the sky and on New Year’s Eve, fireworks displays and other light events herald the New Year. December may be the best month of the year for night photographers!

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.

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.
All month Orion, the night sky’s brightest and most prominent constellation, rises in the East about 2 hours after sunset during early December and around sunset at the end of the month. It sets in the West just before sunrise during the first of the month and a couple hours earlier by 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 Rusty-colored Mars shines in the dusk sky, looking Southwest. It sets about 3 hours after sunset.
All month Jupiter rises in the East around 11pm at the first of the month and around 9pm by month’s end. At the first of the month, it is high in southern sky at dawn and by the end of the month it is high in the southwestern sky at dawn.
All month Saturn hangs very low in the dawn sky looking East-Southeast as the month begins. By month’s end, it rises about 3 hours before sunrise and stands higher in the southeastern sky during dawn twilight.
2nd half Venus returns in the dusk sky. It shines very low on the horizon, looking West-Southwest and sets soon after sunset.
6 Full Moon at 7:27am. 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.
13 – 14

14 – 15


The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks. Geminids are active for several days before and a couple days after the peak. This year, the peak occurs over two nights. This is among the best meteor showers of the year, producing around 120 meteors per hour in ideal viewing conditions. The third-quarter Moon interferes somewhat this year, rising at 12:07am on the 14th and at 1:02am on the 15th. Unlike most meteor showers, which don’t become active until after midnight, the Geminids will become visible soon after nightfall, so you’ll have good viewing on both nights before the moon rises. When the Moon is up, you’ll still be able to see the brightest meteors, particularly if you look away from the Moon.
14 Third quarter Moon at 7:52am.
17 The  crescent Moon shines in the dawn sky, looking South-Southeast. Saturn lies to the lower left of the Moon.
18 The  crescent Moon shines in the dawn sky, looking Southeast. Saturn lies to the lower left of the Moon.
19 A  thin crescent Moon shines low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking Southeast. Saturn lies to the lower left of the Moon.
20 A sliver thin crescent Moon shines very low on the horizon in the dawn sky, looking East-Southeast. Saturn lies to the upper right of the Moon.
21 Winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere at the solstice, 6:03pm, 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!
21 New Moon at 8:36pm. Don’t forget, the best time to shoot the stars (as either pinpoints or star trails) is when there is no light pollution from the Moon.
23 A very thin crescent Moon shines low in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. Venus lies below the Moon and Mars to the upper left.
24 A thin crescent Moon shines low in the dusk sky, looking West-Southwest. Venus lies to the lower right of Moon and Mars to the left.
25 The crescent Moon shines in the dusk sky, looking Southwest. Venus and Mars lie to the lower right of Moon
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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