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Eclipse, meteor shower double treat for stargazers in Dec.

November 30, 2010 2:09pm
A meteor shower and a lunar eclipse will top the treats for stargazers in December, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

PAGASA officer-in-charge Nathaniel Servando said the annual Geminids meteor shower will peak on December 14 while the total lunar eclipse will come Dec. 21.

"Meteors or 'falling stars' can be seen at an average rate of sixty meteors per hour under a dark and cloudless sky which the Quarter Moon set just after midnight. The shower will appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, which will be located in the eastern horizon," Servando said in PAGASA's astronomical diary for December.

Meteor enthusiasts were encouraged to report their observation to the International Meteor Organization site, www.imo.net.

On the other hand, a total lunar eclipse will occur on December 21 and will be visible in the Philippines, Servando said.

"The entire event is visible from North America to western South America. Observers along South America's east coast will miss the late stages of the eclipse because they occur after moonset," he said.

Likewise, most part of Europe and Africa experience moonset while the eclipse is in progress. Only northern Scandinavians can observe the entire event from Europe.

"For observers in eastern Asia including the Philippines, as the Moon rises the eclipse is on its ending stage," Servando said, adding that the eclipse would not be visible from south and east Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Servando said the eclipse will begin at 1:29 p.m. Philippine Standard Time (PST) and will end at 7:04 p.m. (PST).

In Manila, the moon will rise at 5:36 p.m. on December 21, and will set at 6:57 a.m. on December 22.

Partial eclipse begins at 2:32 p.m., while the greatest eclipse occurs at 4:16 p.m. The partial eclipse ends 6:01 p.m. and the penumbral eclipse ends 7:04 p.m., Servando said.

"Lunar eclipses are safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. A pair of binocular will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration of the Moon brighter," he added.

Winter solstice

PAGASA said the Sun will reach the Winter Solstice on December 22 at 7:38 a.m. (PST), marking the time when the sun lies at its farthest point south of the equator. It also signals the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

"Philippine nights will be longer than daytime. Earth has now completed another annual circuit around the Sun," PAGASA said.

The famous equilateral triangle in the sky, known as the Winter Triangle, rises after sunset.

The Winter Triangle is composed of Betelgeuse, the super giant red star and the prominent star of the famous constellation Orion (the Mighty Hunter), Sirius, the brightest star in the sky of the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog), and Procyon, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Minor (the Little Dog).

Venus and Saturn will be found 30 and 12 degrees above the eastern horizon two hours before sunrise during the first week of the December. Both planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin. They will remain visible in the morning sky throughout the month.

Mars and Mercury will be found very low in the western horizon during the first week of the month.

"The best time to view the two planets will be on December 7, when Mercury will be 1 degree south of the thin crescent Moon," Servando said.

After this conjunction, Mars and Mercury will also be found 1 degree apart on December 14. Mercury descends deeper into the twilight horizon and disappear from view two days after this conjunction, while Mars remains very low in the horizon until the end of the month.

Jupiter and Uranus will be found between the border of the constellations Pisces, the Fish and Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.

Jupiter will easily located through its brightness as the sky darkens during the month. It will be shining at magnitude -2.4 and +5.8, respectively.

"Both planets together with Neptune will be visible throughout the evening sky during the month," Servando said. - KBK, GMANews.TV



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