Skywatch: Welcome a new season this week!

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When skies clear out this week you might see a meteor streaking across the sky. While the Ursid meteor shower typically peaks around the winter solstice (more on that later) we’ll have a very bright moon at that time. That means you’ll likely have a better chance of seeing a meteor earlier in the week. The Ursid meteor shower is caused by leftover debris from Comet 8P/Tuttle and you’ll typically see 5-10 meteors an hour during the shower’s peak. It’s active from December 17-26 so even though it peaks near the Full Moon you may see some action earlier in the week when the moon isn’t as bright. Bottom line, don’t go out of your way to see this one but if you’re out and about early in the week, far away from the city lights, look up in the north-northeastern sky around midnight and you might get lucky.

About a half-hour before sunrise on Wednesday Jupiter, Mercury and Venus will all be visible. You’ll need a clear view of the horizon to see Jupiter with Mercury just above and right of the planet. A little higher in the sky, shining brightly, you’ll find Venus. The trio will appear in the southeastern sky early in the day.

We officially bid farewell to the fall season this week. The winter solstice occurs when the sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn. The Southern Hemisphere’s summer starts and our winter begins. This will happen at 5:23 in the evening on Friday. From here on out our nights will be getting shorter and our days will be increasing in length.

As I mentioned before, the Full Moon arrives this week as well. This month’s Full Moon is known as the Full Cold Moon as winter’s icy grip begins to tighten across the region. It’s also known as the Long Nights Moon because this is the time of year for our longest nights. The moon waxes to full at 12:49 Saturday afternoon. Look for the bright moon that night. Happy hunting!

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