Eddie Yip captured star trails while out taking photographs of the Geminids Meteor Shower (Photo: Flickr/Eddie Yip)
December has been a big month for stargazing events – we’ve witnessed the Geminid Meteor shower as well as the last supermoon of the year.
Now it’s time to get ready for the next meteor shower of December as the Ursids are set to peak.
The Ursids isn’t as prolific as the Geminids although you can expect to see up to 10 meteors per hour if the sky isn’t clouded over.
You’ll get a better view of the Ursid meteor shower the further north you go, so those in Scotland will be in prime position to spot the shooting stars.
This NASA graphic shows where the Ursid meteor shower will appear to radiate out from a part of the northern night sky during the 2016 Ursids peak on Dec. 21 and 22 (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Read on for a bit more information about the Ursids, as well as all the other stargazng events we’ve had so far this month.
December 22 – Ursids meteor shower
Meteor shower above Stonehenge (pic: Reuters)
Following on from the Geminids is the Ursids meteor shower that is active annually between December 17 and December 23. This year it will peak on the night of December 22 and the morning of December 23.
The Ursids are associated with the comet, 8P/Tuttle, also sometimes known as Mechain-Tuttle’s Comet.
This shower has been known to produce short bursts of over 100 meteors per hour. But typically its much sparser than that. In a dark sky, it might produce only five to 10 meteors per hour at its peak
However, you will get the best view if you’re watching from a wide-opening viewing are in a dark, rural location.
December 29 – New moon
Marking the end of 2016 and the start of a new 28-day lunar cycle is a new moon on December 29.
A new moon is invisible to us here on Earth as it rises and crosses the sky during the daytime so is obscured by sunlight. It occurs when the sun and the moon have the same ecliptical longitude – meaning the only time you would see it is during a solar eclipse.
Many cultures see a new moon as a time for a fresh start and the beginning of a new month. So although it’s another two days until 2017, it means you can get a headstart on any resolutions you plan on making.
Events in early December
December 12 – Geminids meteor shower
Astronomers believe the Geminids meteor shower is intensifying with each year that passes. Lucky observers may be able to see over 100 meteors per hour. Some reports have seen between 120 and 160 meteors per hour during optimal conditions.
The best place to see the shower for yourself, as ever, will be away from large areas of light pollution.
The best time to see the peak shower is between December 12 and December 15 at around 2am. But given the weather conditions, make sure you wrap up warm before heading out.
December 14 – Supermoon
JAKARTA, INDONESIA – NOVEMBER 14: The super-moon looks seen in the skies of the Indonesian capital on November 14, 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Skygazers headed to high-rise buildings, ancient forts and beaches on November 14 to witness the closest ‘supermoon’ to Earth in almost seven decades, hoping for dramatic photos and spectacular surf. The moon will be the closest to Earth since 1948 at a distance of 356,509 kilometres (221,524 miles). PHOTOGRAPH BY Jefta Images / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:firstname.lastname@example.org – New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:email@example.com – New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:firstname.lastname@example.org www.barcroftimages.com
December’s Supermoon isn’t set to be as big or impressive as the one we witnessed in November, but should still be an impressive sight.
A supermoon is any full moon that coincides with the "perigee" (literally: near Earth ) which is the closest point to Earth in its orbit.
"A supermoon, or perigee full moon can be as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an apogee full moon," said NASA.
"However it’s not always easy to tell the difference. A 30% difference in brightness can easily be masked by clouds or the competing glare of urban lights.
"Also, there are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full moon looks much like any other."
Even though it won’t be as close as last month’s supermoon, there will still be the opportunity for some spectacular pictures. You can see a collection of November’s supermoon pictures right here .
December 21 – Winter solstice
People gather to watch the sunrise as druids, pagans and revellers celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge
In the UK, daylight on December 21 will last for only seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds. It marks the start of longer days leading up to the summer solstice in June. In total, the day is 8 hours and 49 minutes shorter than the summer solstice.
The sun will rise in the UK at 08:04 GMT and set at 15:54 GMT.
It been celebrated by pagans for thousands of years, and many of the traditions now associated with Christmas had their roots in winter solstice celebrations – including the Christmas tree.