Super-moon lightens December skies

Various astronomical events are occuring throughout the month, including the Geminid meteor shower on December 13 (pictured top right). The peak tends to be around 2am United States time, no matter where you are around the world. This is because the constellation, Gemini, which is the radiant point of the shower, reaches its highest point at around 2am. But a supermoon (pictured left) is also scheduled around the same time as the shower, which could make viewing more difficult. Also occurring this month, is the alignment of the moon and Mars on December 4 (pictured bottom right). PHOTO CREDIT: DailyMailUK Online

Various astronomical events are occuring throughout the month, including the Geminid meteor shower on December 13 (pictured top right). The peak tends to be around 2am United States time, no matter where you are around the world. This is because the constellation, Gemini, which is the radiant point of the shower, reaches its highest point at around 2am. But a supermoon (pictured left) is also scheduled around the same time as the shower, which could make viewing more difficult. Also occurring this month, is the alignment of the moon and Mars on December 4 (pictured bottom right). PHOTO CREDIT: DailyMailUK Online

• Get ready to see lunar pairings, two meteor showers, more celestial wonders this month
* Humans to holiday on moon by 2026 as private firm says tourists will take trips for £8,000

Nigerians are set for another days of Super-moon spectacles from December 12 to 22, 2016, even as a United States (U.S.)-based private firm, Moon Express, has said it will work with SpaceX to get people to the moon by 2026.

The company wants to team up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to get humans there. The Florida-based company Moon Express, which is partnering with the United States National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA), wants to team up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to get humans to the lunar surface after sending its rover next year.

Meanwhile, Nigerians and the rest of the world had on Sunday and Monday November 13, and 14, 2016, observed incredible astronomical shows, which would not appear again until 2034.

According to EarthSky, on November 14, 2016, the Moon was closest to Earth since January 1948. During the event, it appeared up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than an average full moon.

Meanwhile, according to Nature journal, two remarkable celestial events are set to coincide — the last super-moon of 2016 and the Geminid meteor shower. So when is the next super-moon in 2016 going to take place, exactly? Stargazers have already observed two pretty spectacular super-moons this year, on October 16 and November 14.

According to National Geographic, Super-moon and Aldebaran is set for December 12. “At 1:25 p.m. ET (18:27 UTC) on the 12th, the nearly full moon—or what astronomers call the waxing gibbous moon—will reach its closest point to Earth in its monthly cycle, at a distance of only 222,738 miles. The coincidence of a full moon and the lunar orb’s closest approach is popularly dubbed a super-moon, and December’s event will be the third in as many months. The moon will officially reach its full phase just a little over day later, at 2:06 p.m. ET (19:06 UTC) on December 13. Either night, it will be worth taking a look at the silvery orb rising in the east around the time of local sunset.”

According to National Geographic, Nigerians should expect Geminid Meteor Shower on December 13. “The annual Geminid shower will reach its peak activity this night for viewers in the Americas. The Geminids are known to be quite prolific, with rates as high as 60 to 120 shooting stars an hour at peak times. Views of the meteor shower are expected to be good on the nights before and after the peak.”

According to National Geographic, Moon and Beehive is set for December 16. It noted: “As a great observing challenge, look for the waning gibbous moon to point the way to the famous Beehive open star cluster in the constellation Cancer, the crab.”

Also, there would be another Super-moon spectacle called December Solstice on December 21. The National Geographic noted: “At 5:44 a.m. ET (10:44 UTC) on the 21st, the sun will be at its lowest point in the sky, making it the shortest day of the year north of the Equator. In the Southern Hemisphere, the sun will be at its highest point, making December 21 the longest day of the year for points south.“Seasons (and solstices) happen because Earth is tilted on its axis at it orbits the sun.”

According to the National Geographic, Ursid Meteor Shower is set for December 22. “In the predawn hours of December 22, North Americans will see the peak of a minor annual meteor known as the Ursa Minorids, or the Ursids. As with all meteor showers, the Ursids are named after the constellation they appear to radiate from in the sky, in this case Ursa Minor, the little bear. These meteors appear to shoot out from a region of the sky just above the bowl of the Little Dipper, the well-known star pattern that’s part of Ursa Minor.”

The National Geographic noted that the last Super-moon spectacle for 2016, called Moon and Jupiter, is set for December 22. “Early risers on the 22nd should see the waning crescent moon pose with brilliant Jupiter. While the moon will be a mere 254,000 miles away, Jupiter sits at a stately distance of 584 million miles from Earth.”

Meanwhile, Moon Express hopes to mine satellite for materials like platinum-group metals, rare earth metals, helium-3 and moon rocks.But it now seems the company also wants to be a part of getting humans to the moon. In August, the Florida-based company won US government permission to send a robotic lander to the moon next year. The move is the first time the US has cleared a private space mission to fly beyond Earth’s orbit.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s unprecedented go-ahead for the Moon Express mission also sets a legal and regulatory framework for a host of other commercial expeditions to the moon, asteroids and Mars.

Naveen Jain, the founder of Moon Express, has said his start-up is willing to work with Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SpaceX, in a recent interview. Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX, plans to fly a spacecraft to Mars in 2018, a mission that raises a host of issues dealing with protecting potential indigenous life on the planet from contamination by Earth microbes.

Among other private space ventures in the works are missions to mine asteroids, operate science labs and repair and service satellites.Planetary protection is less of a concern on the moon, but Moon Express did have to contend with concerns about disturbing Apollo and other historic lunar landing sites, among other issues.

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