The Geminids peak the nights of December 13th and 14th this year, one of the better meteor showers of the year. Unfortunately for 2011, most of the Geminids will be nearly invisible due to the very bright Moon that dominates the late night and early morning sky, when the Geminids are at their best.
The effect of a bright Moon on a meteor shower was vividly illustrated to me during the Total Lunar Eclipse a few days ago. I was at Ocean Beach on the west coast of San Francisco for the eclipse in the early morning hours. Facing west, Gemini was directly in front of us, dominating the western sky. As the brightness of the Moon faded, we began to notice meteors -- we were seeing some very early Geminid meteors, facing the radiant directly. I was very surprised at the stark contrast in meteor visibility from Full Moon before the eclipse started, to an ever-increasing amount of meteors over a very short period of time as the Moon, in effect, when through all of its phases in about 60 minutes. It reaffirms for me the huge difference a moonlit night makes when watching a meteor shower.
Although the meteors will be diminished for the Geminid Meteor Shower in 2011, I'll still take a look, since a big shower like this has plenty of bright meteors that pierce the night despite moonlight. If you want to read more about the Geminids, check out this interesting article about the Geminids radiant, from Earth Sky, from the LA Times, or this one from NASA Science News.
Image courtesy EarthSky.
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