This chart is new data from the LOFAR antenna, and sent by Mike Jefferson.
On Friday, December 18, 2009, LOFAR detected a C7.6 solar flare in the blue (negative voltage area)
LOFAR Data for December 18, 2009 [24 hour period]
The night of Sunday, Dec 13/2009 and into the morning of the 14th marks the height of the Geminid meteor shower. Peak is expected around midnight EST (04:00 UTC).
On average this is the best meteor shower of the year, with rates of up to 120 meteors per hour or more from a dark location. A nearly new moon will result in dark skies allowing you to see more of the fainter displays.
This meteor shower is dust and ice left over from the extinct comet 3200 Phaethon which crossed Earth's orbit more than a century ago. It's called an extinct comet since all of the ice has sublimated from multiple passes around the sun and no longer produces a tail.
This is a "broad" shower meaning the show will last for hours or even days on either side of the peak. Some have already reported seeing some Geminids and it will only get better as we get closer to the 13th. If it's cloudy on Sun, then consider venturing out the night before or after.
While the Geminids back in the 19th century were rather unimpressive, they have continued to get better each year to become the most prolific shower of the year. Some scientists believe that Jupiter's gravity has caused the debris stream from 3200 Phaethon to drift so that we are penetrating deeper into the stream, resulting in the better shows we now enjoy.
More info here
As the name suggests, these appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. At this time of year for North America, Gemini is visible most of the night. From our location, it is just east of Orion. Here's a skymap showing you where to look.
The full size chart can be found here.
Needless to say, now that we're into winter, it's likely to be cold. (Current forecast for Sun night is for a low of -1C, cloudy and a chance of showers or wet snow. Sat night might be the clearest night.) So be sure to dress warmly and bring lots of hot chocolate to stay comfortable. As with all good meteor showers, the best way to observe these is to lay back on a lounge chair to take in the whole sky. Perhaps bring a sleeping bag to help keep you warm.
Back on Nov 16, I saw more than 70 Leonids and 20 sporadics from our observing location at Tyneside and thought this was a pretty good show. The Geminids should be even better. Hopefully you'll brave the cold and enjoy this display.
Tonight the moon is full and certainly worthy of a good look (technically, the moon is full on December 2nd, but in the early morning hours. why not look tonight and tomorrow?). This being December 1st, we will have the opportunity to observe two full moons this month. The second full moon will occur on December 31st, the last night of the year.
As has been described by others, the full moon of each month carries several names. Autumn's Harvest Moon is best know, followed by the Hunter's Moon. Tonight's full moon is known as the Cold Moon, or the Long Night Moon, both very appropriate names. It is also known as the Moon before Yule. The next full moon, on New Year's Eve, will be the Moon after Yule, not surprisingly.
I went out late last night (really early this morning; I almost forgot all about it!) to have a look at the moon, as November 30th marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first telescopic observation, and the first thing he looked at was naturally the moon (it was a waxing crescent, and he watched it set). I took a photo to commemorate the occasion, and you can see it below.
Have a look at the moon this month, and think of the passing seasons, how we are treated to two full moons this month and how after so many years, Galileo's first steps into a new science still carry so much meaning for us.
The moon sets 400 years after Galileo first observed the same thing on November 30th, 1609
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