Sky Lights

This month's shooting stars are not just the usual bits of falling fluff

By Bob Berman|Friday, December 03, 2004
RELATED TAGS: METEORS & ASTEROIDS, COMETS

December brings one of the richest, most enigmatic meteor showers, the Geminids. Bright moonlight often spoils the annual show, but this year circumstances are ideal: The Geminids peak on the 13th, under a dark sky punctuated by a crescent moon that sets by twilight’s end. Get away from city glow and you will see meteors streaking across the heavens all night long.

WHAT’S UP IN THE DECEMBER SKY

The planets are social this month. Venus cozies up to Mars and Mercury, while Jupiter slips behind the moon, an event called

an occultation.

DECEMBER 1

Saturn rises by 8 p.m., beginning a three-

month window of

optimum viewing.

DECEMBER 5-7

Mars passes close by

much brighter Venus

in the eastern sky

before dawn.

DECEMBER 7

The crescent moon

occults Jupiter, visible

from the eastern

two-thirds of the U.S.

DECEMBER 13-14

Geminid meteors put

on an excellent show, lighting the sky from

9 p.m. to dawn.

 

DECEMBER 21

Winter begins at

7:40 a.m. EST, when Earth’s North Pole tips maximally away

from the sun.

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