December to remember
November 30, 2017; 3:40 PM
December is shaping up to be a very interesting month for astronomy! The most active meteor shower of the year occurs. The first "Supermoon" of the year occurs. Plus, there will be a cool alignment of Jupiter, a crescent moon, and Mars. The winter solstice is Dec. 21, and you better believe astronomy is involved!
"Supermoon" is probably an overused term. It simply means the moon is closer to Earth than it has been all year while it is full. To the casual observer, it will not be a noticeable change. The full moon occurs on Dec. 3. It is also refereed to as the "Full Cold Moon" and the "Long Nights Moon."
Skipping ahead to the middle of the month, we are in for a treat. The Geminids meteor shower will provide stronger meteor activity than any other shower this year! It should produce 120 meteors per hour on the night of Dec. 13 into the morning of Dec. 14. The reason this shower doesn't receive as much attention as the Perseids is simply the weather. It's December; it's cold and usually cloudy. We will finetune cloud cover forecasts as we get closer to the night of the shower.
However, I would plan on dealing with cold weather. There is a strong signal that temperatures will be much lower than normal across a large portion of the country, especially east of the Rockies. Normal temperatures have dropped significantly since the cold blast in mid-November, so this will feel brutal, but arctic air often brings crystal clear skies. So, keep your fingers crossed.
Make a whole night of it!
An added treat for Geminid observers that are out all night will be the predawn moon rise. It will not rise until around 4 a.m., but it will rise between Mars and Jupiter.
The solstice is on Thursday, Dec. 21 at 11:28 am. The above illustration shows how it works. The Earth is ALWAYS tilted 23 degrees as it moves around the sun. Compare the winter solstice graphic with the summer solstice graphic below.
Enjoy your time outside this weekend! Not too many things are free anymore; however, looking at the night sky is still one of those things. Thanks for reading! Just look up, you never know what you will see.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com