"The Only Known Asteroid Shower Visits Earth Next Week, and; How to Watch It!"

Scheduled air date: 2001 Dec 03-09


On December 3rd, Saturn will be at opposition—directly opposite the Sun as seen from Earth.
(Shown about an hour after sunset for mid-Northern latitudes.  Inset shows an overhead view of part of our solar system.)


Even a small telescope can reveal Saturn's rings.  Saturn appears higher in the sky (around local midnight) during this opposition than it has in nearly 30 years.  Because of this, and because its rings are presently tilted toward us at about their maximum amount, now is the best time to view Saturn's rings since the 1970's. 


While most meteor showers are caused by comet dust, the Geminid Meteor Shower is believed to actually be caused by asteroid dust.  This shower will reach its peak the night of the 13th-14th.  The above illustrates that these meteors appear to originate from a point (marked by the red "+" symbol) within the constellation Gemini, however they can appear anywhere in the sky.  The best viewing time will be between local midnight and twilight on Friday, December 14th.
(Shown about 2:00 AM for mid-Northern latitudes.)

If you wish to view illustrations for other episodes, please see our Star Gazer Illustrated directory.


Illustrations on this page were created using TheSky Astronomy Software, an advanced desktop planetarium program designed for Windows.

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