The winter nights sparkle with some of the best celestial objects to observe from the northern hemisphere. By the end of December, the winter constellations are high in the southern sky at around 11pm.
Taurus contains two glorious winter deep sky objects - the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. Both can bee seen with the naked eye and are wonderful sights in binoculars, and small telescopes will further reveal the glittering array of bright, blue stars that make up the Pleiades.
A short hop into neighbouring Auriga will bring you to the three exquisite open clusters - M36, M37 and M38 all of which can be spotted with binoculars and lie in the region between Beta Tauri and Delta Aurigae.
With dark skies, you should be able to spot the double cluster Perseus with the naked eye. It's another great target for small telescopes and consists of the clusters NGC 869 and NGC 884.
While you're observing M42, don't forget the often overlooked Running Man Nebula, M43, immediately north of M42. Also, don't forget to check out Collinder 70 which you may already know as Orions Belt. Collinder 70 is an open cluster comprising of over 100 stars and spans an area 3° across.
Winter is a busy time for meteors, with lots of activity during the long nights. Hot on the tail of the Orionids last month, are the Leonids, famous because their meteor showers, or storms, can be among the most spectacular. The outbursts of meteor activity are best seen when their parent object, comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, is near perihelion (closest approach to the sun). In 1999-2002, a deep crossing of Tempel-Tuttle's debris streams produced outbursts of more than 1000 meteors per hour. The Leonids are active from the 14th November through to the 21nd November.
Following the Leonids are the Geminids which are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year. They start around 7th December and last until the 17th.
The final winter meteor shower is the Quanrantid meteor shower. The Quadrantids have the potential to be the strongest shower of the year but are usually marred by poor January weather and the short length of maximum activity of 6 hours. They are active from the 1st to 6th of Janurary.
Click here for a visual guide to meteor showers.
Winter is an ideal time to observe the following constellations.
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