December Nights

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. The final month of the year features two great night sky events worth catching. Both are late in the night to early in the morning but worth staying up for.

First up is the Geminid meteor shower peaking the night of December 13th, morning of the 14th. Perhaps the finest meteor shower of the year its only drawback is the winter temperatures. But those of us willing to stand the cold are rewarded with a steady stream of falling stars. This year the moon is first quarter and will set around midnight local time. Just as its fully dark the meteor shower will be ramping up to full strength, around 120 meteors/hour (ZHR). With a clear dark sky you should see more than one per minute.

The second big event is a total lunar eclipse on December 21. Interestingly the 21st is also the Winter solstice: the shortest day of the year and the start of winter. Its been 2 years since the Midwest last saw a total lunar eclipse and we won’t see another until 2014!. But this one we’re in the right place, the Midwest is perfectly situation to see all stages of the eclipse. For a neat animation of these eclipse stages check outShadow and Substance website. What dark color will the moon be this eclipse? Perhaps with this years volcanic eruptions we’ll see a deeper red.