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Christmas Stars

This 30-second image of Comet 17/P Holmes was taken by Apostolos Christou and David Asher of Armagh Observatory at 22:45 UT on 2007 November 22 with a 15-cm Celestron Newtonian telescope and an SBIG ST-7 CCD camera.

This year's annual Geminid meteor shower is active during the period December 7 - 17, with the peak of activity occurring during the evening of Friday, 14th. The Geminid shower is one of the best of the annual meteor displays, usually having a high number of relatively bright, medium-speed shooting stars.

Under ideal conditions, it is expected that there will be up to 120 meteors visible per hour for a few hours around the time of the peak. For northern hemisphere observers, the waxing crescent Moon will be below the horizon during most of the hours of darkness. The Geminid radiant will be moderately high in the east in the late evening on 14th.

Other celestial bodies to look for while meteor watching are the enigmatic periodic Comet Holmes, currently faintly visible to the unaided eye in the constellation Perseus, and the planet Mars, lying close to the Geminid radiant. In the early morning hours before dawn, Saturn (high in the south), Venus (low in the southeast) and Mars in the west, will be prominent objects. The Orion nebula, under the three stars of Orion's belt and an active star-forming region approximately 1300 light years away, rises in the east in the evening and sets in the morning before sunrise.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfat signarm.ac.uk

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Last Revised: 2007 December 11th
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