If you’re the kind of person who sets up their telescope…
to try to catch a glimpse of Santa, you may want to get out there early this year. You have the opportunity to practice your sky watching skills before Santa’s big day.
Here are three cool sky events you won’t want to miss before Christmas…
December 13 – 15 – Geminids Meteor Shower.
This is supposed to be one of the best meteor showers of the year, with up to 60 meteors an hour. The shower peak is December 13th & 14th but meteors could be visible from today (the 11th)through the 19th. You will need to look to the east after midnight. Most of the meteors appear to be coming from the Gemini constellation. This is a perfect opportunity to practice staying up late to catch the Big Guy & a great excuse to drink copious amounts of hot chocolate with marshmallows (or the adult additive of your choice).
December 17 – Full Moon.
The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun which will cause it to be fully illuminated or “Full”. The full moon will rise about 5:45 pm in Northern Michigan & set about 8:05 am. This isn’t quite as big a deal as a meteor shower because we get the chance every month to see a full moon. However, if you’re lucky enough to be near Torch Lake, you have the lovely opportunity to watch it rise up over the water as you dine, or wake up to the moon setting as you plow through your oatmeal in the morning. Watching the moonlight dance a path over the water is always “illuminating”. (old astonomers joke…sorry)
December 21 – Winter Solstice.
The Winter Solstice occurs at 12:11 pm on Saturday Dec. 21st in Northern Michigan. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun which will have reached its southernmost position in our sky. Many people believe this is also the shortest day of the year, but that’s not necessarily true. It is however, the first official day of winter in our northern hemisphere. Many people view this as a time to celebrate the fact that the sun will eventually return to us, bringing our beloved spring & summer. So even though there’s nothing to really see in the night sky, a solstice celebration can be a sort of warm up to Christmas Day.
My advice…pack up your hot chocolate, your telescope or binoculars, & your warmest mittens. Then grab a friend & head out to practice Santa Watching.
Me…I’m off to talk some friends of mine into making the hot chocolate!!!