Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Midnight Matinee


Last updated 12/16/2020 at 1:58pm


Nature watchers can enjoy a midnight matinee in the wee hours of Dec. 13 and 14 as the annual Geminid Meteor Shower appears in the night sky.

The Geminid shower is always one of the best celestial events of the year, but this year is expected to exceptional since there will be no moonlight to dilute Borrego's celebrated dark sky. The New Moon occurs on Dec. 14.

While there are always a smattering of meteors streaking through the night sky before and after the peak, the best viewing will be around midnight and after until dawn on Dec. 14.

Meteor showers are typically better after midnight because the earth rotates into the tiny incoming particles that ignite when they enter the earth's atmosphere.

The August Perseid Meteor Shower always seems to get more publicity because it's during the warmer summer evenings and the Milky Way is on full display.

But I have always found the Geminids to be more spectacular, sometimes with several meteors flashing through the night sky within seconds of each other.

According to the Geminids tend to be "bold, white and quick."

The tiny particles that create the meteors are remnants of the dust trail of 3200 Phaethon an Apollo asteroid that comes closer to the sun that any other named asteroid.

Viewers can expect to see more than 50 meteors an hour, but as many as 150 per hour have been observed when conditions, like this year, were ideal.

December nights can be chilly in the desert in December, so bundle up if you are planning to spend a few hours watching the show.

The Geminids radiate from constellation Gemini, but the meteors can appear just about anywhere in the sky. Find a good location with a full sky view, and just sit back and enjoy the beauty.

If you do hang in until dawn, your reward will be the rise of a tiny sliver of the New Moon chasing the bright planet Venus.

On Dec. 21, there will be another spectacular event in the sky with the arrival of the Christmas Star, an event that has not occurred in 800 years.

In reality, it's not star, but a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, so close to each other that they will appear as a single, bright object.

This is the closest the two planets have come each other in their dance through the cosmos since the Middle Ages. While it is common to see the two planets close to each other this time of the year they have not been seen this close since the year 1226. The best viewing will be just after sunset in the southwestern sky.

Maybe it's a sign of Hope for 2021!

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