The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 13-14, Geminids Meteor Shower

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. The waning crescent moon will be no match for the Geminids this year. The skies should still be dark enough for an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Dec. 3, Full Moon, Supermoon

Full Moon, Supermoon

This December 3, 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 15:47 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. This is also the only supermoon for 2017. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 24, Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

This November 24, the planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 22.0 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 18, New Moon

new moon, sky tonight

This November 18, the Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 11:42 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 17-18, Leonids Meteor Shower

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. The 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. The nearly new moon will not be a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for what should be good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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Nearby Exoplanet May Harbor Life

ross 128 b may harobor life

A newly discovered extra-solar planet located some 11 light-years away may be suitable for life.  It’s called “Ross 128 b” and you may be hearing a lot more of this exoplanet in the months and years to come.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 13, Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

This November 13, a spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the Eastern sky just before sunrise.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 4-5, Taurids Meteor Shower

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. It peaks this year on the the night of November 4. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 4, Full Moon

full moon, sky tonight update

This November 4, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:23 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.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Oct. 21-22, Orionids Meteor Shower

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. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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