On December 5th, NASA successfully launched the first test flight of its Orion capsule. Scheduled to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit in the 2020s, the spacecraft is NASA’s first deep-space people transporter since the Apollo days.
A mysterious source of radiation has left astronomers contemplating exotic explanations.
The Japanese asteroid-sample mission launched successfully. With luck, in six years its sealed capsule will return to Earth with samples of a primitive, carbon-rich asteroid.
Lick Observatory Gets a Reprieve
Last year the University of California ordered its astronomers to make historic Lick Observatory self-supporting by 2018. Now there’s been a change of heart, and the university will continue to pay for its operation.
The nearly-full Moon shines in a starry part of the sky over the weekend, near Aldebaran and Betelgeuse depending on the evening. The dim little Dipper hangs straight down from Polaris in mid-December, and Venus begins to peek through the glow of the sunset.
The annual Geminid meteor shower, one of the best shooting-star displays each year, returns to our skies late this week. Despite interference from moonlight, plenty of bright meteors should still shine through.
Go treasure hunting for carbon stars, the rubies of the night sky.
Our monthly podcast offers the key highlights for stargazing in December: where to find bright stars and planets — and how to spot the Geminid meteor shower.