December Night Sky-- click to see larger
© Will Trion
This year's Geminids should be visible to the naked eye.
© Brocken Inaglory
December night sky is busy. We’ll see the Geminid meteor shower, which should be a good one this year because of the new moon.
And later in the month we have the the Winter solstice— the first day of winter.
The Geminid’s Meteors Should Be Easy to See
The night of the 13th will be the peak of one of the best meteor showers of the year. Known as the Geminid meteor shower, it gets its name because the meteors appear to be zipping towards an observor from the constellation Gemini. In the United States, head out after dark (best viewing is usually after 9 PM) and look a little north of due east. As long as you avoid other lights, you should be able to observe this year’s shower with the naked eye.
Because there’s almost no moonlight tonight, you may be able to see as many as 100 a meteors per hour on the night of December 13/14. In fact, the International Meteor Organization (IMO.net) predicts the hourly rate might be 120 meteors an hour at the peak of the shower. Click here for an easy to use sky map and more details.
And Don’t Forget The Start Of Winter
Next Friday is also the Winter Solstice, which marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (although it started a few weeks back for many folks!). The solstice is actually a very specific event and time. This year it’s at 11:12 AM Universal Time (what most of us used to call Greenwich Mean Time). That’s five hours ahead of US Eastern Standard and eight hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time. Here’s a handy link to calculate the exact time for you location
At precisely that time, the Earth’s axial tilt is at its most distant from the sun and North America gets the least amount of sunlight it experiences all year. So even though we’re still facing several months of cold weather across the US, we’ll soon see days start to get longer, and eventually warmer, from this point forward.
So are you ready for winter? Is your local wildlife?