December is a blessed month with so many things to see in the skies.
We are already in the Geminid meteor shower which peaks on 14 December and ends by 24 December, but 12 December is New Moon so it will be the best day to look for shooting stars. Look in the direction of the Gemini constellation after dark, and you can use an app called Sky View lite to find where that is. There is an expected peak of 120 meteors/hour, which is quite high, and we are lucky in Dainfern with darker skies than the cities, so we may appreciate it more. Eskom may also aid us if they are so kind.
The meteor shower occurs because the Earth passes through a parcel of space debris left over by a massive asteroid (3200 Phaethon) that passed an unknown amount of time ago. That means it occurs every December when the Earth passes through the same parcel.
Did you know meteors cause the Earth to increase in mass by 50 tons per day?
Other than flying rocks, in December you can also see Saturn and Jupiter, quite bright overhead with the naked eye. You’ll be able to see the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter quite clearly with an 8 inch telescope.
In the early hours of the morning, before sunrise, you can see Venus clearly in the East, and you might be able to see Mercury if you don’t have crust in your eyes still.
For private stargazing bookings visit www.telescopenight.co.za or Whatsapp: 069 670 9010
Himkaar Singh – CEO of Telescope Night (Pty) Ltd