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EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2014

The Geminid meteors radiate from near star Castor in Gemini.

The Geminid meteors radiate from near star Castor in Gemini.

Next up … the famous Geminid meteor shower in December. In 2014, the last quarter moon moon will interfere. You can try watching in the evening, before moonrise around midnight. And we encourage you to stick around and watch after midnight, too, despite the moon. These meteors are bright! Best night will likely be the evening of December 13 until dawn on December 14. Try the night before (December 12-13), too.

Everything you need to know: Geminid meteor shower

Meteor flying straight from Gemini's two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, on night of December 12-13, 2012.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Mike O'Neal in Oklahoma.  Thank you Mike!

Meteor flying straight from Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, during the 2012 shower. Photo by Mike O’Neal in Oklahoma.

The peak night of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower will probably occur on the night of December 13 (morning of December 14). The night before (December 12-13) may offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. And you could try watching on December 14-15, if all else fails. The meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. Don’t let the late-night moonlight discourage you from watching after midnight, or during the peak viewing hours. Geminid meteors are bright!

Orion rises at mid-evening in November and early December

Stars trails of constellation Orion via EarthSky Facebook friend Jean Baptiste Feldman. Can you pick out the three stars in Orion’s Belt? Notice also the different colors of the stars in Orion.

Orion the Hunter is one of the easiest constellations to identify in the night sky. You will find Orion rising in mid-evening in late November and early December. Depending on where you live, this constellation will climb over your eastern horizon by around 9 p.m. tonight. The mighty Hunter appears to be lying on his side when you first spot these stars in the east. Orion’s Belt juts upward, and his two brightest stars — Betelgeuse and Rigel — shine on opposite sides of the Belt.

Study says gravity and Higgs boson interacted to save the universe

View larger. | Time line of the universe via NASA/WMAP Science Team

Time line of the universe via NASA/WMAP Science Team

One startling announcement earlier this year was that the Higgs boson should have made our universe collapse less than one second after it began expanding outward from the Big Bang. The universe did not collapse, and now European physicists say they can explain why without the need for “new physics.”

Venus returning to evening sky!

View larger.| See the little white dot of the planet Venus in the upper right of this photo?  It'll be back to your evening sky in early December.  Helio de Carvalho Vital captured this image on November 18, 2014 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He wrote,

View larger.| Venus near the setting sun on November 18, 2014 by Helio de Carvalho Vital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Helio de Carvalho Vital captured this image of Venus – which will soon return to your western sky after sunset – on November 18, 2014 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. See the planet? It’s the little white dot in the upper center of this photo. Look inside to learn how he captured it, and when you might see this brightest of planets.

Ten things you might not know about space

Image credit: UltraVISTA/Terapix/CNRS/CASU

Image credit: UltraVISTA/Terapix/CNRS/CASU

Ten oddities and misconceptions about space that you may – or may not – have heard before.

Big Dipper bowl points to star Capella

You've heard of the Big Dipper's

You’ve heard of the Big Dipper’s “pointer” stars? You can use them to find the star Capella, too.

If you can see the Big Dipper tonight, use the top two bowl stars to find the bright star Capella. But can you see the Dipper? Maybe yes, and maybe no. The Big Dipper sits low in the northern sky on November evenings from northerly U.S. latitudes. From southerly U.S. latitudes, and farther south, you can’t see the Dipper at all. It is hidden below the horizon in the evening.

Thud of Philae landing on comet

Today, German scientists released a two-second recording of the sound the Rosetta mission’s Philae lander made when it touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s icy surface. Philae landed on the comet, which is about 311 million miles (500 million kilometers) from Earth, last week (November 12, 2014).

What makes a halo around the sun or moon?

Halo around the sun, seen from Sweden on April 24, 2014 and captured by Fotograf Goran Strand.

Halo around the sun, seen from Sweden on April 24, 2014 and captured by Fotograf Goran Strand.

A ring or circle of light around the sun or moon is called a halo by scientists. We get many messages throughout each year from people who’ve just spotted a ring around the sun or moon.

People want to know: what causes a halo around the sun or moon?

Burning questions about winter cold

Snowfall departure from normal October 2014, via Rutgers Snow Lab

Snowfall departure from normal October 2014, via Rutgers Snow Lab

Old Man Winter seems to have gone maverick in the Northern Hemisphere over the last few years. Take 2014 as an example. It’s on track to be the warmest globally in more than a century of record-keeping, with May, June, August, and September all setting world heat records for those particular months. Yet February only managed to tie for 21st warmest globally, mainly because of two regions of prolonged cold across North America and central Eurasia.