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The Buzz

Don't Miss December's Four Meteor Showers, Cold Moon




(Photo via Shutterstock)

With four meteor showers active this month, December is the perfect time to wish upon a shooting star. 

The first of the three meteor showers to start in December is the Geminids meteor shower, which occurs from December 4 to December 17. Peak activity for the Geminids will be the night of December 13 into December 14, according to the American Meteor Society.

The Geminids offer the best chance to see a shooting star this month because it is one of the best meteor showers of the year, producing about 120 meteors per hour in perfect conditions, according to NASA. This year, however, conditions will be less than ideal because the moon will be nearly full and bright in the night sky, making it more difficult to see the meteors. 

The Ursids meteor shower occurs later in December, peaking this year on the night of December 21 into December 22. However, the Ursids are a much less active meteor shower, running from December 17 to December 26 but producing only between five and 10 meteors per hour during peak times, according to the American Meteor Society.

Yet another meteor shower, the Quadrantids, begins December 27, but it won't reach its peak until the night of January 3 into January 4, the meteor society reports. And the Northern Taurids meteor shower started way back in October, but it will remain active until December 10. It reached its peak in mid-November, but may still produce visible shooting stars for the first part of December. 

This month also includes the winter solstice, which is the day of the year in which we have the shortest amount of daylight and, correspondingly, the longest amount of darkness. The precise moment of the winter solstice is when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, the farthest point south it will reach all year. The solstice will occur at 10:19 p.m. local time December 21, according to the National Weather Service.  

The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is exactly the opposite of how those people who live in the southern hemisphere experience it. While those of us north of the equator experience our longest night, south of the equator the winter solstice means they will have their longest day and shortest night, according to EarthSky.

The full moon this month will occur the night of December 11 into December 12. The precise moment when the moon will reach its fullest point is 11:12 p.m. December's full moon is called the cold moon because December is the month when winter sets in, according to Farmers' Almanac. It is also sometimes referred to as the long night's moon because December is the month with the longest nights and also because the moon stays above the horizon for a long time in December. 

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