December is here along with chilly nights, a morning planetary display, and one of the year’s best meteor showers.

It is unusual for no visible planets to occupy the evening sky, but this month is the first of two without evening planets. This planetary drought is only temporary however, and the five visible planets return to the evening sky in full force this summer, with all five arcing across the sky at once. Get ready for some must-see summer planet observing with Mars being at its brightest since 2003.

Saturn and Mercury lie in the direction of the Sun this month and are out of sight. Venus is visible low in the morning sky before sunrise at month’s onset, but by mid-month, it too is blocked by the rising sun. That leaves Jupiter and Mars for planetary viewing before sunrise.

Jupiter is the very bright object low in the Southeast around 6:30 a.m. Above Jupiter look for ruddy Mars. Jupiter and Mars form a triangle with the bluish star Spica which hangs slightly above Mars. Throughout the month, Mars edges closer to Jupiter, setting up for a close conjunction of the two worlds next month. On the mornings of Dec 13 and 14, the thin crescent moon drops in to form a beautiful celestial triangle with Jupiter and Mars.

But the sky has even more in store on the night of Dec 13 and 14. On this night, the annual Geminid meteor shower peaks. The Geminids are one of the year’s best meteor showers, boasting up to 120 meteors per hour. Unlike most meteor showers which occur as Earth passes through leftover comet debris, the Geminids emanate from a ring of debris leftover from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. The thin crescent moon leaves the sky good and dark all night long, perfect for meteor observing. Best observing occurs between midnight and dawn. Look high in the East for these dazzling streaks of light.

Brad Nuest is space science educator and Scout programs manager at the Cosmosphere.

Brad Nuest is space science educator and Scout programs manager at the Cosmosphere.