What will the night sky show at the turn of the years
Today, the Geminids – a meteor shower which is active from December 11–17 will show the peak of their activity. The place from which they appear to emanate is located in the constellation Gemini.
“It is a very concentrated swarm, based on photographic observations, the swarm has a diameter of only 22 million km. For comparison - the diameter of the meteor shower Orionids is 56 million km. There are more brighter meteors in the peak area, as the denser central core contains a larger proportion of larger particles. While most known meteor showers have a comet as their parent body, Geminids are extraordinary in that they move in the orbit of the asteroid MP 3200 Phaethon,” said Ján Svoreň, Associate Professor from the Astronomical Institute SAS.
At the peak, it is possible to see up to 70 meteors per hour. The conditions for observation are excellent in 2020 because the Moon will not interfere with its light, since it is in the phase of the new moon.
On December 22, the peak activity of U Mid or Ursid meteor showers, which is active from December 17 to 26, will occur. This swarm is also interesting in that it was discovered on December 22, 1945, at Skalnaté pleso by A. Bečvář and co-workers.
“The radiant is located near the Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor (commonly known as the Little Bear). The swarm is related to the short-period comet Tuttle with an orbital period of 13.6 years. It is possible to see approximately 10 meteors per hour at the peak. The conditions for observation are average in 2020 - the Moon is in the first quarter during the peak,” said Associate Professor Svoreň.
This year, too, we can once again look forward to the comet visible during Christmas. In the second half of December, comet 141P/Machholz 2 will be observable with small telescopes.
“It is a short-period comet of the Jupiter family with an orbital period of 5.33 years. It was discovered in 1994 during a sudden brightening caused by the outburst. It will be observable for 2 to 3 hours in the evening over the western horizon. The comet will pass from the constellation Capricornus to the constellation Aquarius in December. It will be the closest to the Sun on December 15, and it will reach the peak brightness of 8.5 magnitudes on December 24,” said the astronomer.
On December 21 at 11 o´clock and 2 minutes, the Sun will reach the southernmost position in the sky and will begin to return to the north. For us, this means a gradually greater height of the Sun above the horizon, shortening of the night and extension of the day.
“This change will continue until June 21, 2021, when the Sun will reach the position furthest north of the celestial equator at 5 o´clock and 32 minutes,” added the astronomer.
Edited by Monika Tináková
Foto: Astronomical Institute SAS