Look Up! What We Can See in Space This December
A new era is dawning as space tourism becomes a reality and the global powers race for their place in the skies. Yet, for most of us, the majesty of the universe still rests above. From a new mission to Mars to a meteor shower visible from Earth, here are some of the top space events you can watch from your terrestrial ground.
Comets A few comets will make appearances in December 2022: on December 13th, comet C/2021 Y1 (ATLAS) will reach its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 1.69 AU or 156 million miles away—close enough for amateur astronomers using binoculars or small telescopes to spot it! Another comet designated C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) will also pass by Earth at a distance of 2.58 AU or 240 million miles providing another great opportunity for sky-watchers around the world to witness a timeless flash in our night skies.
Occultations An occultation occurs when a celestial object is eclipsed by the Moon or another solar system body. On December 5th, those in eastern Europe, the northern Middle East, and Russia can view the Earth’s moon completely eclipsing Uranus! If you’re in North America or Western Europe, watch for Mars’ occultation on December 7th.
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Program Launches On December 12th, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch to observe and record data of the world’s oceans and its terrestrial surface waters. The U.S. and French oceanographers and hydrologists are joining forces to conduct the “first global survey of Earth’s surface water, observe the fine details of the ocean’s surface topography, and measure how water bodies change over time.”
December also brings some spectacular meteor showers. On December 13th, 2022, Earth will pass through the debris field left behind by an ancient comet called 3200 Phaethon resulting in one of nature’s most spectacular light shows: The Geminids Meteor Shower. This dazzling display features hundreds of meteors streaking across the night sky each hour and is visible from anywhere on Earth!
Then, on December 22nd to 23rd, observers may be able to witness up to 30 meteors per hour during the Ursids meteor shower. These are just two of many impressive shows that we can look forward to as we wrap up 2022!
The Launch Of SpaceX’s Starship One of the most highly anticipated launches is set for December 1: SpaceX plans to launch its next generation spacecraft, Starship. This reusable spacecraft is designed to carry astronauts and cargo into orbit around Earth and eventually take humans to other planets like Mars—but we’ll have to wait until later this month to find out if it succeeds in its mission! You can follow the progression of Starship as we get closer on SpaceX’s website!
We are living in an exciting time for space exploration—and this December is no exception! From a brand-new rover mission that could reveal secrets about Mars’ geology or past life forms, to a meteor shower that promises breathtaking views from anywhere on Earth, there’s something for everyone who loves outer space. Make sure you mark your calendar for these events so you don’t miss out on any of this month’s must-see celestial action! Look up!
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