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The Ursid Meteor Shower Is Peaking Tonight, Right on Time for the Winter Solstice

News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Dec 21, 2020

The holiday season typically refers to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s, but that’s not all we’re celebrating this month. The Ursid meteor shower is peaking on the evening of December 21 and into the morning of December 22, coinciding directly with the winter solstice.

The shower originates from the Ursa Minor (Little Dipper) constellation, with meteors streaking across the sky all night. It occurs when Earth passes close to the orbit of comet 8P/Tuttle, and this year that pass includes several trails of debris that follow the comet, perhaps leading to more activity during the shower.

Unfortunately, since the moon will be 50 percent full, you might not have a great view of this shower. For the best chance at a memorable show, wait for the moon to set around 12:30 AM ET on December 22, then watch the sky for about an hour. That’s when the meteor shower should be peaking. It’s also advised to look about halfway up in the sky, rather than straight up, since that’s where the meteors will be traveling.

Also keep an eye out for the “Christmas Star” on December 21 — a phenomenon wherein Jupiter and Saturn align so closely in the night sky that they appear to collide, creating a point of light, it’s called a “Christmas star.”

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