Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 by eNature

The next week or so will feature the Geminid meteor shower and a lunar eclipse.  Both should be clearly visible in the night sky and experts expect both will be worth staying up for this year.  And we also see the Winter solstice— the first day of winter.

Tonight’s The Night For The Geminids
Tonight is the peak of one of the best meteor showers of the year, although it will continue for several more nights. Known as the Geminid meteor shower, it gets its name because the meteors appear out to be zipping towards you from the constellation Gemini.  In the United States, head out after dark (best viewing is usually after 9 PM) and look a little north of due east. 

Even though the moon’s light doesn’t help, you should be able to 50-80 meteors per hour is attained on the night of December 13/14.  Click here for an easy to use sky map and more details.

Watch The Moon Disappear Before Your Eyes
There’s a total lunar eclipse happening across all of North America the night of December 21   While it may be happening a little late for folks on the East Coast, you might find it’s worth staying up for it.  The eclipse will start to be noticeable around 1:00 AM ET, with the total eclipse beginning at 2:41. 

You can do the math and see the timing is a little more friendly for folks on the west coast.  Regardless of how late the hour, you’ll not regret staying up to catch one of nature’s best shows.  Here’s a link to complete schedule and viewing map of next week’s total lunar eclilpse

And Don’t Forget The Start Of Winter
Next Tuesday is also the Winter Solstice, which marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (although it started a few weeks back for many folks!).  The solstice is actually a very specific event and time.  This year it’s at 11:38 Greenwich Mean Time (actually now known as Universal Time). 

That’s five hours ahead of US Eastern Standard and eight hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time.  At the point, the Earth’s axial tilt is at its most distant from the sun.  So even though we’re still facing several months of cold weather across the US, we’ll soon see days start to get longer, and eventually warmer, from this point forward. 

Website has a great summary of the Geminds

Sky and Telescope Magazine posted a very useful story on total lunar eclipse