Winter is one of the best seasons to explore the night sky since the sky remains clearer than any other time of the year. However, with longer nights, this December has something more to offer to skywatchers and amateur astronomers. You can witness three major celestial events -- a meteor shower, an eclipse and an interstellar visitor. So, mark your calendar and brace yourself to catch a glimpse of the following events this month, besides the usual winter solstice:
1. Geminids meteor shower 2019
When: December 13-14, 2019
The Geminids meteor shower will peak near the middle of the month around December 13-14. "The Geminids are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year and meteor enthusiasts are certain to circle December. 13 and 14 on their calendars," the American Meteor Society (AMS) stated on its website.
AMS reports suggest that this shower may bring as many as 150 meteors per hour on the night of December 13 till the early morning of December 14. However, many of the meteors may unfortunately go unnoticed as the shower will take place one night after the full moon.
The number of meteors may reduce from 150 per hour to 20 or 30 meteors per hour as the light pollution from the nearly full moon may envelope many of the dimmer meteors. Stargazers should try and concentrate on the darker areas of the sky, away from the moon, to catch a glimpse of the shooting stars. On the night of December 21 and during the early morning hours of December 22, people can witness the final meteor shower of this year that will bring around 10 meteors per hour.
2. December Solstice
When: December 21 at 11:19 pm EST
Though the meteorological winter starts today, the Winter Solstice this month will usher in at the beginning of astronomical winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer for the Southern Hemisphere. It will also have the longest nights and the shortest days of the year. This happens due to earth's position which is tilted on its axis.
3. Annular solar eclipse
When: December 26
The day after Christmas will witness the final solar eclipse of the decade. People residing in the Middle East, southern India and parts of Indonesia will be able to see the moon pass directly between the earth and the sun.
Reports suggest that there are chances of those regions to experience a partial solar eclipse, often known as the 'ring of fire' eclipse. This happens because the moon is at a position of its orbit which is quite far from the earth. However, it will not cover the entire sun.
If you want to experience the rare sight, then you must have proper eye protection glasses to avoid eye damage from the harmful rays of the sun.
4. Interstellar visitor
Apart from the above celestial events, scientists have confirmed that the recently discovered second interstellar comet, 2I/Borisov, is all set to make its closest approach to earth this month, but the details are not available still.