Most of the stuff happening in December is right in our own visible sky.
Image courtesy NASA/SDO.
>> This week I've been obsessed with this enormous filament the sun produced, captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The ridiculously huge structure spanned a full 700,000 km at one point, and that was just the part scientists could visibly measure. It finally erupted in a flourish on Monday, thankfully not in the direction of Earth. Adding to the big show are two sunspots that appeared earlier this week, one of which is big enough to see without the aid of a telescope.
>> Head out during nighttime for a glimpse of the Geminid meteor shower. Some may be visible now if you're in a dark locale or just lucky, but be sure to catch them as they peak next week on December 13 and 14. Read up on Space.com's take on the Geminid "mystery" -- that is, where exactly are these meteors coming from?
>> But if were forced to pick one night only for skygazing, make it the night of December 21 (actually just after midnight, making it December 22), when the Western Hemisphere will get its last chance to view a total lunar eclipse until April 2014.
>> Disappointing news for JAXA when their Akatsuki spacecraft failed to enter Venus' orbit as planned on Monday. Right now, engineers are speculating that the spacecraft may have been damaged in a collision on its way to the planet or it's engine nozzle may be malfunctioning. An investigation team will keep looking; in the meantime, JAXA is planning to try again at the next opportunity -- about six years from now. Somebody get those guys an extra-extra-large pot of coffee.
>> Our favorite Bad Astronomer compiled a video from Cassini's raw image archive, giving us a nice moving view of its recent Hyperion flyby.
>> And finally, Space Gizmo has video on the first science flight for SOFIA -- the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The telescope flies on a specially equipped Boeing 747 and will be used to study the formation of solar systems, complex molecules in space, black holes at the center of galaxies, and more. SOFIA is a joint project by NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and is part of NASA's Origins Program.