By Chris King • 13 December 2021 • 4:26
Image of Pervis Estupiñan.
Credit: Wikipedia - By Agencia de Noticias ANDES - LDU vs AUCAS, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45301133
Two special astronomical phenomena will take place in the night skies during the next few days. An annual mid-December cosmic spectacle known as the Geminids is due to flash through the universe. They are a shower of shooting stars, first observed in 1862, that occur when the trajectory of the Earth converges with that of the asteroid Phaethon.
This meteor shower is believed to be growing stronger each year. It usually peaks around December 4–16, with the date of highest intensity normally being the morning of December 14. The time to watch out for them is around 2am or 3am, and they often appear yellowish in hue.
Because they travel at a medium speed in relation to other showers – at about 22 miles per second (35 km/s) – this makes them fairly easy to spot. They tend to burn out at an altitude of around 24 miles (39 km).
Then there is Comet Leonard, named after astronomer Greg Leonard from the Mount Lemmon telescope in Arizona, in the United States, who discovered this heavenly object last January.
It will be at its closest distance to Earth, specifically at a distance of 35 million kilometres, so it does not pose a threat to our planet. This distance corresponds to a quarter of that between our planet and the Sun. Current calculations reportedly indicate that this is the last chance to see this comet, since it will soon be expelled from the solar system.
Although it will be hidden by sunlight, experts point out that it will first be visible during sunrise on the 13th, and will remain so until Thursday, December 16. To locate it, you have to focus between the constellations of Ursa Major and Arthur, and look for the third brightest star in the sky.
The close passage of a comet on dates close to Christmas is believed to be symbolic. They are a common phenomenon since there is scientific evidence of the presence of around 3,775 comets in the solar system.
Most closely watched are those near to the Earth, completing their orbit around the Sun in a period of less than 200 years. These objects have a minimum distance from the central star of 1.3 astronomical units, slightly more than the separation between the Sun and the Earth, as reported by cadenaser.com.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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