Meteor shower, winter solstice await stargazers in December

December 2 2015 9:01 AM

A meteor shower and the winter solstice that marks longer nights await stargazers in the Philippines in December, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said on Wednesday, December 2.

In its astronomical diary for December, Pagasa said the Sun would reach the winter solstice at 12:48 a.m. of Tuesday, Dec. 22.

This marks the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere.

With this, Pagasa said Philippine nights would be longer than daytime as Earth completes another annual circuit around the Sun.

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Meteor shower

During December, the annual Geminids meteor shower will be active from Dec. 4 to 17, but will peak on the night of Dec. 14 until the early hours of Dec. 15.

“Under a dark and cloudless sky and just after midnight of its peak activity, meteors or ‘falling stars’ can be seen at an average rate of 40 meteors per hour. The shower will appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini,” Pagasa said.

Geminids differ from other meteor showers in that the Geminids meteors do not originate from a comet, but from an asteroid.

Stars, constellations

During December, the famous equilateral triangle or the Winter Triangle will be located at about 30 degrees above the eastern horizon.

The triangle includes Betelgeuse, the super giant red star and the prominent star of Orion; Sirius, the brightest star of Canis Major; and Procyon, the brightest star of Canis Minor.

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Starting Dec. 1, Jupiter, Mars and Venus will shine and reside among the background stars of Virgo. They will be good subjects for astrophotography and telescoping sessions.

“The best view will be from 5-9 December wherein the Crescent Moon will join the planets,” Pagasa said.

At around 10 p.m., Neptune and Uranus will be 20 and 60 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon and will lie among the background stars of Aquarius and Pisces.

Stargazers will need a modest-sized binocular or telescope and a star map to view these planets.

Mercury can best be viewed in the last week of December.

Saturn comes from the east-southeastern horizon during the third week of December, as it gradually emerges from the sky 30 minutes before sunrise.

It will lie among the background stars of Ophiuchus.

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