Geminids Meteor Shower Peaks Dec. 13, 14

Geminids Meteor Shower

The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th.

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Where to Find Comet 46P/Wirtanen in Tonight’s Sky

comet 46p/wirtanen

46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years. It was one of three comets discovered by astronomer Carl Wirtanen at Lick Observatory in 1948.

On Dec. 16, 2018, 8:06 a.m. EST, less than four days after making its closest approach to the sun, 46P/Wirtanen will pass very close to the Earth — just 7,199,427 miles away. That’s among the 10 closest comet approaches that have occurred since 1950 and the 20th closest approach of a comet dating as far back as the ninth century A.D.

But while that sounds great, 46P likely will not evolve into a spectacular sight.

What we are dealing with is a very small and intrinsically faint comet; ground-based observations combined with images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996 revealed the nucleus of 46P to have a diameter charitably estimated to be around seven-tenths of a miles.

The Night Sky for December 2018

Saturn’s iconic rings are clearly visible with backyard telescopes in early December—Mercury and Venus appear later in the month. Also look for Eta Cassiopeiae, a double star, with binoculars or a small telescope to discern its gold and blue hues. Finally, don’t miss the mid-December Geminid meteor shower. You could see as many as 60 colorful meteors per hour.

Find out more about what you can see from your backyard, front stoop, or local park by viewing this monthly program. “Tonight’s Sky” is produced by HubbleSite.org, online home of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Sky Tonight Update: Full Moon

Full moon

This November 23rd, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:40 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon.

Leonids Meteor Shower Peaks Nov. 17, 18

Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th.

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Taurids Meteor Shower Peaks Nov. 5, 6

Taurids Meteor Shower

The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10.

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The Night Sky for November 2018

Some fish (Pisces), a ram (Aries), and a triangle (Triangulum) can all be found in the November night sky. Also, be sure to catch the Taurid meteor shower, which features 5 to 10 meteors per hour on its peak night of November 5 to 6, and for meteors radiating from the constellation of Leo in the evening of November 17 and early morning of November 18.

Find out more about what you can see from your backyard, front stoop, or local park by viewing this monthly program. “Tonight’s Sky” is produced by HubbleSite.org, online home of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Sky Tonight Update: Full Moon

Full Moon

This October 24th, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 16:46 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.

The Sky Tonight Update: Uranus at Opposition

Uranus at Opposition

This October 23rd, the blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

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Orionids Meteor Shower Peaks Oct. 21, 22

Orionids Meteor Shower

The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22.

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