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The Geminid Meteor Shower, Cosmic Dust, and the Caldwell Catalog

In the December 2020 issue of Sky & Telescope, we’re preparing for the best meteor shower of the year and talking about dust. The Geminids peak on December 13–14, and we’ve got tips for watching. We also dig into cosmic dust — meteors and otherwise — which colors every aspect of our view of the universe. Dust’s most important ingredient, perhaps, is carbon, and we trace its history from the solar system’s earliest years to find out what why Earth developed with just the right amount of it. While watching the Geminids this month, why not break out the astrophotography gear and do a little science with the stars? We detail exactly how to measure stellar brightness using amateur equipment. Speaking of stars, how do plants get along without one (at least for a little while)? As totality shadows Argentina and Chile this month, we find out what plants in our front yard think about totality.

FEATURE ARTICLES:

Get Ready for the Geminids

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” to see meteors!

By Joe Rao

The Caldwell Catalog Turns 25

This popular list of observing targets published in 1995 is marking its first quarter-century.

By Mathew Wedel

Specks Between the Stars

When thinking about cosmic wonders, we often wrongly sweep interstellar dust under the rug.

By Christopher Crockett

Follow the Carbon

There’s another ingredient besides water that’s crucial to the recipe for life.

By Edwin Bergin

Beyond the Printed Page:

Hubble’s Caldwell Catalog

Enjoy the Hubble Space Telescope’s Caldwell Catalog, which contains images of 56 objects from Moore’s list.

Observing Meteor Showers

Read these tips from the International Meteor Organization for a comfortable night under the Geminids.

The Total Solar Eclipse over South America

Watch the next total solar eclipse live from Patagonia.

Radio Astronomy

Build your own backyard radio telescope with these instructions.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

A Long Night’s Journey Into Day

The dark of winter offers plenty of time for skygazing and quiet contemplation.

By Fred Schaaf

A South American Total Eclipse

The Moon’s shadow visits Chile and Argentina again.

By Bob King

ANTS on the Moon

Warm rocks hint at recent geological activity.

By Charles Wood

The Starry Heavens

Clusters and nebulae abound in compact Cassiopeia.

By Sue French

Table of Contents

See what else December's issue has to offer.

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