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Awesome Geminid shower in 2017? Thank 3200 Phaethon

This mysterious rock-comet is the parent body of the Geminid meteor shower and the likely reason the Geminids were so strong in 2017. The rock-comet itself is closest to Earth December 16.

IAU approves 86 more star names

“These professional astronomers are claiming the exclusive right to give ‘approved’ names to the stars. But the stars – and the sky – belong to all of us.”

Lengths of lunar months in 2017

Longest lunar month of 21st century (2001 to 2100) starts with December 18 new moon. It’s also the farthest new moon of the year. Coincidence?

Sirius in many colors

When you see the sky’s brightest star – Sirius – low in the sky, you’re seeing it shine through an extra thickness of Earth’s atmosphere. At such times, its colorful flashing might surprise you.

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A grand year for the Geminids

The 2017 Geminid meteor shower was thought to have a better-than-average chance of producing a rich display, since the Geminids’ parent body – a strange rock-comet called 3200 Phaethon – is nearby. And so it was! Photos here.

Study: A third of Asia’s glaciers likely gone by 2100

Meltwater from the glaciers supplies water to 800 million people, so that loss would mean serious consequences for water management, food security, energy production.

Juno probes depths of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Juno spacecraft data show the Great Red Spot – nearly 1.5 Earths wide – with roots penetrating some 200 miles (300 km) into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Solstice coming up December 21

December solstice 2017 arrives on December 21 at 16:28 UTC. High summer for the Southern Hemisphere. For the Northern Hemisphere, the return of more sunlight!

Star of the week: Mirfak

Mirfak isn’t as famous as Algol, its brother star in the constellation Perseus. But Mirfak is easier to find and can help guide you to Algol.

How to see rock-comet 3200 Phaethon

You can’t see 3200 Phaethon – parent of the Geminid meteor shower and a strange asteroid-comet hybrid – with the eye alone. But backyard telescopes can pick it up. Charts and more here.

Don’t miss the Geminids in 2017!

The Geminid meteor shower is always reliable, but might be extra special in 2017. Peak morning is likely December 14. Be sure to watch for the moon near the morning planets!

Arctic report card 2017

The report shows the warming trend that’s transforming the Arctic region is persisting. The Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades, say scientists.

Astronomers chart galaxy orbits in our Local Supercluster

“For the first time, we are not only visualizing the detailed structure of our Local Supercluster of galaxies, but we are also seeing how the structure developed over the history of the universe.”