The Sky Tonight Update: Full Wolf Moon

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 23:09 UTC (5:09 PM, Central Time). This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Wolf Moon because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Quadrantids Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. This year the nearly full moon will block out most of the fainter meteors. But if you are patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones.

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December Solstice

The Winter Solstice, or the December Solstice, is the point at which the path of the sun in the sky is farthest south. At the Winter Solstice, the sun travels the shortest path through the sky resulting in the day of the year with the least sunlight and therefore, the longest night. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Ursids Meteor Shower

The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790.  Tuttle goes around the sun every 13.6 years and provides the debris field that creates the meteor shower. The Ursids were first recorded in England in 1900 and also spotted in Germany in the following decades.  The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd.

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The Sky Tonight Update: 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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The Sky Tonight Update: Full Cold Moon

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 full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is an average shower, producing an average of 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 comet makes its way around the sun every 33.3 years, leaving a trail of dust rubble in its wake.  When Earth’s orbit crosses this trail of debris, pieces of the comet fall toward the planet’s surface.  Drag, or air resistance, in Earth’s atmosphere causes the comet’s crumbs to heat up and ignite into burning balls of fire called meteors.  Sometimes, meteors fall at rates as high as 50,000 per hour.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Full Beaver Moon

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 full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Beaver Moon because this is the time of year when beavers begin to take shelter in their lodges, having laid up sufficient stores of food for the long winter ahead. During the time of the fur trade in North America, it was also the season to trap beavers for their thick, winter-ready pelts. 

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The Sky Tonight Update: Total Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout eastern Russia, Japan, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and parts of western and central North America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

The Sky Tonight Update: 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 night of November 4.

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