December brings the Geminids, a visible comet, and a fond farewell.
What's Up for December? High rates for the Geminid meteor shower, a visible comet, and a fond farewell.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
December's Geminid meteors peak on the morning of the 14th at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Standard
Time or 4:30 a.m. Pacific and are active from December 4th through the 17th. The peak lasts for
a full 24 hours, meaning meteor watchers around the globe will get to see this spectacle.
If you can see the familiar winter constellations Orion and Gemini in the sky, you'll see some Geminids. Expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour from a dark sky location but only after the
first quarter moon sets around midnight your local time. From the Southern Hemisphere,
observers should see fewer but still plenty of medium-speed meteors once Gemini rises above the horizon after midnight local time.
The best observing equipment for meteor watching is a comfortable chair and your eyes.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen started to brighten last month but it will be easier to see in December. It's a short-period comet with an orbital period of only 5.4 years. It's diameter is estimated to be 3/4 of a mile or 1.2 kilometers across.
On December 16, 46P will be only 7.2 million miles or 11.7 million kilometers from Earth and will reach an estimated naked-eye magnitude of 3 to 7.5.
Catch your last view of Saturn for several months when it's near the Moon at sunset December 8 through the 10th. Then Mars meets up with the Moon December 13th through the 15th.
From December 24th to the 26th catch the Moon above, near, and below Leo's bright white star Regulus. Year-end brings the Moon near Virgo's pretty white star Spica from the 29th through the 31st.
It's been an honor to write and host these monthly stargazing shows for you since 2007. What's Up has covered the day and nighttime sky, from sunsets to eclipses, planets, comets, and everything in our amazing solar system and beyond--and will continue to do so next year with a new voice.
Remember, you can catch up on all of NASA's current and future missions at: www.nasa.gov
That's all for me. I'm Jane Houston Jones.