It’s hard to believe that 2022 is coming to an end, but here we are. December holds a few astronomical treats, including one of the best meteor showers of the year, a chance to see Mars closer than in the past couple of years and the start of the astronomical winter.
There are a lot of astronomy happenings in the last month of 2022. Here’s a look at a few that might make you want to get out and look.
December’s full moon, known as the “cold moon,” occurs on December 7th. As daylight saving time passes, you’ll have more time to look at it. The moon will be at its fullest after 11 p.m. EDT.
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At the same time we have a full moon on Earth, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will be back from its test flight around the moon. The spacecraft, scheduled to return humans to the moon in 2025, has been sending back views of the lunar surface and Earth throughout its nearly 26-day mission.
In December, Mars makes a return of sorts when it’s at its closest point to Earth in two years.
On December 8th, Mars will be in opposition to Earth. During opposition, Mars and the Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth, bringing the two planets closest together in their orbits. However, proximity is all relative when talking about the vastness of space. Mars will still be 38.6 million miles away at its closest approach.
This would be the best view of the Red Planet in two years since the last Mars opposition occurred in October 2020.
If your birthday falls on December 21, the date of the winter solstice, you have less time to celebrate because it is the shortest period of daylight in the year.
Marking the official start of astronomical winter, the sun will set at 4:48 p.m. EST, kicking off the longest night of the year.
This astronomical event requires no action unless you want to catch an early sunset or take part in some solstice festivities.
The Geminid meteor shower continues until December 24th. According to NASA, the Geminids are one of the best and brightest meteor showers of the year.
The name of the meteor shower comes from the constellation Gemini, where the meteors radiate, but the meteors are the remnants of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. As Earth passes through the debris trail each year, we get a Geminid Meteor shower.
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peak activityAnd the When sky investigators can see between 100 and 150 meteors per hour, it occurs between December 13th and 14th. According to NASA, these meteors travel more than 40 times faster than a bullet and are best seen after 9 p.m. EST on December 13.
The point is, a clear view of the sky is best when trying to spot a shooting star. In December, with the winter storms, it can be hard to find clear skies.
The bright moon will also steal a bit of the show from the Geminids during peak activity this year.
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