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GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: Mark your calendar. The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th when Earth passes through a stream of debris from extinct comet 3200 Phaethon. The Geminids have been intensifying in recent years, and 2009 could be the best year yet. Forecasters expect 140+ meteors per hour under the dark skies of a new Moon. [sky map]
NORTHERN LIGHTS: Last night, the skies over Iceland turned green:
"There were some clouds in the way, but I think they added to the charm of the display," says photographer Wioleta Zarzycka. "I took the picture using a Nikon D40."
The lights appeared when a solar wind stream reached Earth and rattled our planet's magnetic field. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for more auroras tonight as the solar wind continues to blow.
December Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Decembers: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000]
ORION AT THE BEACH: Last week, Grant Privett planted his camera and tripod in the sands of a beach on the Canary Islands. Off and on for 20 minutes, he opened the shutter to the eastern sky as moonlight washed over the waves and Orion rose into the night. Here is the result:
"The moon was waxing gibbous and produced flashes of light from breaking waves," says Privett. "All the features of the waves were evened out during the 20-minute shoot." Orion and Sirius show up as a series of broken star trails, each tiny arc corresponding to 60 seconds of open-shutter time. The sandy beach and moonlit waves combined with the stuttered constellations to produce an otherworldly ensemble.
It's that time of year. Orion the Hunter rises in the east just after sunset and seems to beckon to photographers to do something creative. Who's next?
more images: from Jan Koeman of Kloetinge, the Netherlands; from Tamás Ábrahám of Szomor, Hungary; from Lloyd Cross of Kennesaw, Georgia
Explore the Sunspot Cycle