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Get ready for a cold moon kiss

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Last full moon of the year brings two planets close together


IF you look up to the sky from around 4.30pm this afternoon, December 10, and tomorrow, December 11, you might be lucky enough to spot the conjunction of two bright planets, Venus and Saturn - you might also spot Jupiter.

Through even a small telescope the rings of Saturn will be visible and they are absolutely worth a look if you haven’t seen them before. The Moon is almost full those evenings, but the planets will still be bright as long as we have clear weather.

Venus – brightest planet and third-brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon – will appear first with Saturn appearing perhaps 15 minutes or so later close by.

Two planets are said to be in conjunction when they are north and south of one another on the sky’s dome. At conjunction, Venus sweeps 1.8 degrees south of Saturn - to put this into context your index finger at arm’s length spans about 2 degrees of sky.

And this weekend, in the early mornings of December 14 and 15, if clear, you could observe the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. The Moon is at First Quarter and will set around 11pm so its light will not hinder the view when Gemini is highest in the sky.

The Geminids can often produce near-fireballs and so the shower is well worth observing if its clear. Preferably find a location away from towns or cities. The relatively slow moving meteors arise from debris released from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This is unusual, as most meteor showers come from comets.

Wrap up warm and watch any clear area of sky as far from the moon as possible to see most showers.

Send us your pictures if you spot Venus and Saturn together or if you spot a Geminid shower.

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