February 27, 2021

An eclipse, a superconjunction and a meteor shower to end the year

View from the Marina of Valencia of the partial lunar eclipse

View from the Marina of Valencia of the partial lunar eclipse

The last month of the pandemic year for coronavirus will offer astronomically an eclipse of the Sun, a superconjunction of planets and the last meteor shower of 2020, the Geminids, has indicated this Wednesday the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC).

The peak of the Geminid rain will occur during the nights of December 12 and 13, while in the dawn of the 14th this month in the territories of Chile and Argentina a total solar eclipse of about 2 minutes will be observed, and seven days later Jupiter and Saturn will be at the minimum distance between them.

The IAC has explained in a statement that the meteor shower will be broadcast live from the observatories of Teide (Tenerife) and Roque de los Muchachos (La Palma), through the sky-live.tv channel. A broadcast that will be made with the collaboration of the Energy Efficiency Laboratories (EELabs) project, the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute (IAC) and the Sodepal Astronomical Dissemination Program and the Cabildo Insular de La Palma Innovation Service.

The IAC comments that during the last ten years the Geminids have always said goodbye to the year exceeding 100 meteors per hour (ZHR, zenith hourly rates) and placing themselves in the 1st place in the annual Meteor Showers ranking, along with the Perseids and the Quadrantids.

This year, the activity of the Geminids will occur between December 4 and 17 and its maximum is expected at 12:50 am on December 14, universal time, and the nights of December 12 to 13 and from December 13 to 14 they will be the best moments to observe the meteor shower.

For its observation, the IAC notes that meteors seem to be born in the constellation Gemini (the Twins), which will be located near the well-known constellation of Orion, and adds that this year the new Moon will accompany the observation, so you can enjoy the meteor shower in all its intensity.

It agrees fix your gaze on an area of ​​the sky and hold it for at least a few minutes to be able to “detect” a Geminid, and it will be necessary to place oneself in a dark place, free of light pollution produced by cities, and with clear horizons. It is recommended lie on the floor and wear warm clothes. And most importantly: you have to be patient, adds the IAC.

Regarding the eclipse, the IAC points out that although in the northern hemisphere the sky will be looked at during the early morning of the 14th to see the rain of stars, a narrow strip of the territories of Chile and Argentina have another reason to look up that day.

And of the superconjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, he says that during the last months they have approached little by little in the sky, but it will be on December 21 when they will reach the minimum distance between them. “The apparent distance between Jupiter and Saturn will become as small as 1/10 of a degree, or what is the same, 6 minutes of arc, 1/5 of the average diameter of the Sun or the Moon “, explains Alfred Rosenberg, astrophysicist disseminator of the IAC, who adds that,” in fact, its distance will be so small that they can be observed at the same time through a telescope, distinguishing the bands of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and some of its satellites.

The actual distance between the two planets will, however, be approximately five times greater than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. It is easy to enjoy this event with the naked eye, paying attention to the sky every day after sunset, since in a few hours they will disappear, approximately, from the same place on the horizon as where our star has done.


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