As Minnesotans, the long dark winter nights are nothing new, but this month, the night sky brings us a little extra glow to enjoy. December is chock-full of astronomical events that will give us reason to get outside and admire the beauty of these spectacular events. We’ve compiled a few tips for when, where, and how to view these night time features in your wonderful Minneapolis parks.
The Geminids Meteor Shower is an annual meteor shower that lights up the sky each December, but is notable this year for a couple of reasons. Running from December 4th to December 17th with a peak showcase at 2am on December 14th, you can see up to 150 meteors per hour under ideal circumstances. With no interference from moonlight this year, it will be a sight you don’t want to miss. Additionally, this is a great meteor shower for kids with earlier bedtimes, as you should be able to spot plenty of meteors as early as 9pm, well before the 2am peak. It’s recommended that you face towards the southern sky, as most meteors will appear to originate from the Gemini constellation. However, they can be seen all across the sky, so be sure to find a nice open area to get the best view!
The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st. The much anticipated Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be on the day of the solstice: December 21, 2020. Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions happen every 20 years, however, this will be will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226! “Look for them low in the southwest in the hour after sunset. And on December 21st, the two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart — that’s about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length!” NASA explained earlier this month. You’ll be able to see this phenomenon with just the naked eye, or for an even clearer view, dust off your binoculars for this once-in-a-few-hundred-years event!
Here are 7 (of many) top Minneapolis park viewing locations across the city that offer wide open areas and southern facing options to see these exciting shows:
#1. Theodore Wirth Regional Park
Theodore Wirth Park is one of Minneapolis’s largest, supplying a great range of space and various locations to explore. Stretch out near the Wirth Lake Beach area, or head further up north towards the Trailhead and Golf Course areas.
#2. Matthews Park
While the hill at Matthews Park faces north, we had to include it here, as it’s the perfect star-gazer’s lounge. This grassy area is sure to be a favorite for those looking to bring their coziest blanket and post up for the evening.
#3. Armatage Park
Armatage Park is located in the southwestern corner of Minneapolis, and because it’s so far from the city lights, this park will be a great place to see the meteor shower. There’s plenty of grassy space to spread out on, and even a few southern facing benches to snag if you can!
#4. Farview Park
One of the best views of the Minneapolis skyline, Farview Park, is perched up on rolling hills, offering great views to the south and west – making it prime viewing for both of these upcoming events.
#5. Todd Park
Todd Park is located in South Minneapolis near Diamond lake. This park is great for skywatchers, as it offers a wide open field for ample viewing.
#6. Powderhorn Park
The area all around this lake gives way to a great sky-view. Bring your favorite folding chair, some snacks, and you’ll be good to go!
#7. Gluek Park
Gluek Park is located right on the Mississippi River’s edge in the NE. There is an easy trail that leads you right down to the water where you’ll get a great view to the west for sunset and the Great Conjunction.