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Stargazing in December: Check Out the ‘Mars Ballet’, a Meteor Shower, and The ‘Cold Moon’

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If you don’t mind the nip of the cold, this month’s celestial phenomena are ones to watch, and include a Nutcracker ballet between the Moon and Mars, and the king of the meteor showers.

Mars is at its brightest this December between the 7th and 8th, when an occultation occurs. This is the passing of the Moon directly across Mars, and will take place between late night on the 7th and early morning on the 8th, depending on your location.

The Griffith Observatory in California will be streaming the celestial event.

Mars will also partake in a pas de deux with the Sun when on the night of the 8th, the Red Planet will be perfectly framed with the light of the sun passing around the Earth. The surface details of Mars will be visible with telescopes and binoculars on this night.

Orbiting back to the Moon, it will be full on the 8th of December, and is the last full-moon of autumn.

The full moon this month is known as the Cold Moon, for obvious reasons. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has collected the traditional names for moons from the Native Americans, and they are as follows: Drift Clearing Moon (Cree) Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota), Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe), and Long Night Moon (Mohican).

Also in December is the Winter Solstice, the last day of autumn and the longest night of the year.

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Look to the Skies This Week For the Perseid Meteor Shower and Spectacular Saturn Show

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The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best shows all year for “shooting stars”.

Though the Perseids have been active since July 14, the frequency of meteors hurtling through the sky is now heating up this week.

Scientists say the peak time to view this shower will be on the night of Thursday, August 11. The full moon that night may make it tougher to spot the meteors, so train your eyes toward the darker areas and watch closely.

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