The December Geminids and Ursids offer up two more chances to see meteor showers this year. Plus, there are two comets to try for through telescopes.
What’s Up for December. More meteor showers and plenty of planets.
Hello and welcome. I’m Jane Houston Jones from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
If the weather marred your meteor watching in November, don’t worry. The December Geminids and Ursids offer up two more chances to see meteor showers this year. The constellation Gemini, namesake of the Geminids and location of the meteor shower radiant, is easy to spot above Orion, high in the southern sky. Look for the most Geminids–even before midnight–on the peak nights of December 13-14th and 14th-15th.
A week later, under darker new moon conditions, look for the Ursids radiating from the bowl of Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper. The best time to view this shower is from after midnight until dawn on December 22nd and 23rd.
Start the month with a pretty view of the moon near the Pleiades star cluster on December 4th and 5th. Look east a few hours after sunset. You can’t miss the two objects. Then, set your alarm clock for an hour before sunrise and catch Jupiter above the moon on December 11th through the 13th in the southwest sky. Jupiter rises in the Eastern sky by about 10 p.m. and it’s visible until dawn.
From the 18th to the 20th, look southeast a little closer to sunrise to catch the slender crescent moon near Saturn.
Three more planets grace the evening sky. Venus is below the moon, near the horizon, on the 23rd. Mars is below the moon on the 25th. And Mercury peeks over the horizon on New Year’s Eve.
Uranus and Neptune are among the stars of the constellations Aquarius and Pisces in the southern sky. You’ll need a telescope to spot Neptune, but you just might find blue-green Uranus through binoculars as soon as it’s dark after sunset.
Finally, there are two comets to try for through telescopes. Comet Siding Spring in Ophiucus and Comet PanSTARRS in Sculptor. Try looking in the early evening. Both are low on the western horizon.
You can learn more about all the solar system bodies at solarsystem.nasa. gov. And you can learn about all of NASA’s missions at www. nasa. gov.
That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.