The nights may be cold as temperatures drop well below zero in most of the country, but there’s a good reason to bundle up and head outside for the week ahead: the Geminiden- Meteor shower.
The Geminids are one of the most reliable and active meteor showers of the year. And the stars have aligned to make it even better than usual.
You can shoot a few meteors across the sky any night, but with showers the chances increase as the earth plows through a torrent of debris left over from a passing comet or asteroid.
The main thing that can hinder viewing meteors is our beloved companion, the moon. When the moon rises, and especially when it approaches a full moon, only the brightest meteors can be spotted, especially from the light-polluted skies in urban areas.
This year, however, the moon won’t be a problem, which means it could be the best show in a while.
The Geminids are an annual shower that takes place from Jan.. until 17. December takes place as the earth moves through debris left over from asteroid 3200 Phaethon. It peaked on the night of Jan.. on the 14th. December.
The shower takes its name from the constellation that the meteors seem to come from, known as radiation. In this case, it is the constellation of Gemini that rises in the east after 7 p.m.. m. Local time.
To catch a few of these “shooting stars” all you have to do is go outside and look up after dark. You don’t necessarily have to look towards Gemini and you don’t need binoculars or a telescope.
And because the new moon on 14. appears, this means that even weaker meteors are visible from the dark sky.
The Geminids can produce up to 150 meteors per hour under ideal conditions, ie cloud-free and in a place with dark skies. And even better, they tend to be bright and can sometimes produce colorful fireballs.
If you want to see it, your best bet is to go to a less light-polluted sky, away from the city lights. And it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy an activity with physical distancing or just with your immediate family.
The shower should peak sometime around 8 p.m.. m. ET so it’s also a great opportunity to get the kids out to enjoy the show before they go to bed.
The key to seeing as many as you can – aside from moving away from the city lights – is to be patient and keep your eyes on the sky. Put your phone away as the light will make it difficult for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and spot faint meteors. And remember: these meteors move through the atmosphere at 35 kilometers per second. So if you look away for even a moment, you may be missing out on one.
The only downside to this shower is that it tends to be cloudy at this time of year. So you can try looking for meteors in the days before or after the summit.
Nicole has a great interest in all things scientific. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole looks up at the night sky and appreciates the wonders of our universe. She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books.
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Meteor shower, meteoroid, Geminids, star
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