12 December 2012

Geminid Meteor Shower 2012

One of the best meteor showers of the year, the Geminids, peaks the night of Thursday December 13th and continues through the early morning hours of Friday December 14th, as seen from the western hemisphere. This annual shower is generally a good show, and this year will be fully uninterrupted by moonlight, as the Moon is new and will leave the skies dark.

Geminid Meteors
Annual meteor showers are created as Earth passes in the wake of another celestial body, normally an asteroid or comet with a fine trail of dust and debris that burn up in Earth's atmosphere. In the case of the Geminids, they are caused by the remnants of an asteriod. This year, a new comet has left an additional amount of dust and debris and might cause the meteor viewing to be extra-intense.

To see the Geminids, find a dark location away from bright lights or direct lights, dress very warmly, and give yourself 5-10 minutes to adapt to the darkness. Look up and you'll see the meteors, as they will streak across any part of the sky. The common aspect of these meteors is if you trace the path of the meteor backwards, they will appear to emerge from the constellation Gemini (see image). But don't worry, you don't need to point any one direction or use a telescope. Meteor showers should be relaxing events, with plenty of time to gaze into the heavens and enjoy the glorious night sky.

Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope.

1 comment:

The Urban Astronomer said...

Report from San Francisco: Thursday night we had clear skies and chilly conditions, but the sky was crisp and the view was nice. I had a 30 minute observing session during which I observed 10 meteors. Most were fairly small, but one stood out because it was much brighter and left a long trail across the northern sky. All of the meteors were clearly Geminids, traceable back to the radiant that was about 1/2 way up the eastern horizon. A nice night for meteors. Good thing I looked Thursday night, since it was cloudy by Friday before sunrise when I had planned to look again for a few minutes.