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Oregon, Coastal Astronomy: Xmas Moon, Meteors, Holiday Asteroid Flyby

Published 12/17/2015 at 4:13 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – Three really stunning interstellar events take place this month, with two relevant to Portland, inland Oregon and the coastline. It's a mish-mash of astro-conicidences in December, a bit like a Dr. Who holiday special. Look for an asteroid flyby near Earth on Christmas, a full moon that night (and the first Christmas moon since the opening of the original “Star Wars”), and the Geminid meteor showers are currently raging above our heads. (Photo above: starfall in Cannon Beach).

Right now is the tail end of the Geminids – what OMSI astronomy expert Jim Todd called the “king of meteor showers.” It's been hiding above those rain-soaked clouds, with nary a glimpse, at least in Portland. Some on the north Oregon coast, especially in the Cannon Beach area, have been reporting periodic cloud breaks and lots of streaks in the sky.

“It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak,” Todd said. “It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17.”

It peaked this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th.

Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

On the slightly spooky side, NASA said a giant rock about a mile and a half wide will be zipping rather close to Earth on Christmas eve. Even though not many objects get this close, the asteroid known as 2003 SD220 will still be 6,787,600 miles from us holiday revelers and mere mortals, nearly 30 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

Parts of the internet lit up this month with rumors it's close enough to trigger earthquakes or volcanoes, but NASA said that's so incorrect that Santa probably won't bring any presents to those who started those tales.

Scientists are hoping to get some holiday gifts out of this, however: some good photos of the asteroid as it passes by.

Just a few hours into Christmas morning, the first Christmas full moon since 1977 happens. It reaches this full stage about 3 a.m., probably not long after the asteroid has swung by.

The last time a full moon fell on the yuletide day, Jimmy Carter was in office, the Trailblazers won the NBA championship, and the original Star Wars had been released that May.

There's no official word from the British government if a mysterious blue box in the style of an old police box from London in the 60's will appear because of this unusual astronomical convergence. But who would be surprised at this point? Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour








 

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