Geminids, Ursids, winter constellations
What's Up for December? The best meteor shower of the year and the brightest stars in familiar constellations.
Hello and welcome! I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The Geminds peak on the morning of the 14th, and are active from December 4th through the 17th. The peak lasts for a full 24 hours , meaning more worldwide meteor watchers will get to see this spectacle. If you can see Orion and Gemini in the sky you'll see some Geminids. Expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour between midnight and 4 a.m. but only from a dark sky. You'll see fewer after moonrise at 3:30 a.m. local time.
In the southern hemisphere, you won't see as many, perhaps 10-20 per hour, because the radiant never rises above the horizon.
Take a moment to enjoy the circle of constellations and their brightest stars around Gemini this month. Find yellow Capella in the constellation Auriga.
Next-going clockwise--at 1 o'clock find Taurus and bright reddish Aldebaran, plus the Pleiades.
At two, familiar Orion, with red Betelguese, blue-white Rigel, and the three famous belt stars in-between the two.
Next comes Leo, and its white lionhearted star, Regulus at 7 o'clock.
Another familiar constellation Ursa Major completes the view at 9 o'clock.
There's a second meteor shower in December, the Ursids, radiating from Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper. If December 22nd and the morning of December 23rd are clear where you are, have a look at the Little Dipper's bowl, and you might see about ten meteors per hour.
There are so many sights to see in the sky. Use the Night Sky Network, the Solar System Ambassadors, and the Museum Alliance to look up local astronomy clubs, and join them for stargazing events in town, and under dark skies.
You can find out about all of NASA's missions at: www.nasa.gov
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.