Look for a bright meteor shower in the middle of the month – News – The Hutchinson News


By Brad Nuest

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

It is unusual for any visible planet to occupy the night sky, but this month is the first of two without nocturnal planets. However, this planetary drought is only temporary, and the five visible planets return to the night sky with full force this summer, with the five arches crossing the sky at once. Prepare for a summer planet that should not be missed by noting that Mars is at its brightest point since 2003.

Saturn and Mercury are in the direction of the Sun this month and are out of sight. Venus is visible low in the morning sky before dawn at the beginning of the month, but in the middle of the month, it is also blocked by the rising sun. That leaves Jupiter and Mars for the planetary vision before dawn.

Jupiter is the very bright object in the Southeast around 6:30 a.m. On Jupiter you can see the red color of Mars. Jupiter and Mars form a triangle with the bluish star Spica, which hangs slightly above Mars. Throughout the month, Mars gets closer to Jupiter, establishing a close conjunction of the two worlds next month. On the mornings of December 13 and 14, the thin crescent moon falls to form a beautiful celestial triangle with Jupiter and Mars.

But the sky has even more in store on the night of December 13 and 14. On this night, the annual Geminid meteor shower spikes. The Geminids are one of the best meteor showers of the year, with more than 120 meteors per hour. Unlike most meteor showers that occur when the Earth pbades through comet debris, the Geminids emanate from a ring of leftover debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaeton. The thin crescent moon leaves the sky good and dark all night, perfect for observing meteorites. The best observation occurs between midnight and sunrise. Look in the east for these dazzling rays of light.

Brad Nuest is a space science educator and manager of Scout programs in the Cosmosphere.

Brad Nuest is a space science educator and manager of Scout programs in the Cosmosphere.

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