Categories: Meteor Showers

Get Ready for the Geminids — In the Sky and Online!

[/caption]

One of the best night sky events of the year is on tap: The Geminid Meteor shower. According to the Royal Astronomical Society, the evening of December 13 and the morning of December 14, skywatchers across the northern hemisphere could see up to 100 “shooting stars” or meteors each hour. This number is what will be seen at the peak of activity, but if conditions are clear you can definitely take the time to observe any time between Sunday night, Dec. 12 to Wednesday morning, Dec. 15.

You can also participate and share in the event on Twitter, with the #Meteorwatch crew.

Of course, meteors are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, burning up and super-heating the air around them, which shines as a characteristic short-lived streak of light. In this case the debris is associated with the asteroidal object 3200 Phaethon, which many astronomers believe to be an extinct comet.

The meteors appear to originate from a ‘radiant’ in the constellation of Gemini, and so the name Geminid.

For US skywatchers, Sky & Telescope predicts that under a clear, dark sky, one or two shooting stars per
minute will likely be seen from about 11 p.m. local time Monday until dawn Tuesday morning. If you live under the artificial skyglow of light pollution the numbers will be less, but the brightest meteors will still shine through.

For European, and particularly British observers, the RAS says by 0200 GMT on December 14, the radiant will be almost overhead in the UK, making it the best time to see the Geminids. By that time the first quarter Moon will have set so the prospects for a good view of the shower are excellent.

Meteors in the Geminid shower are less well known, probably because the weather in December is less reliable. But those who brave the cold can be rewarded with a fine view. In comparison with other showers, Geminid meteors travel fairly slowly, at around 35 km (22 miles) per second, are bright and have a yellowish hue, making them distinct and easy to spot.

To watch for meteors, all you need are your eyes. Find a dark spot with an open view of the sky and no glary lights nearby. Bundle up as warmly. “Go out late in the evening, lie back, and gaze up into the stars,” says Sky & Telescope senior editor Alan MacRobert. “Relax, be patient, and let your eyes
adapt to the dark. The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, probably straight up.”

As with most astronomical events, the best place to see meteors is at dark sites away from the light pollution of towns and cities. You can also check with astronomy clubs or science museums if they are hosting any viewing events.

The Geminids will also feature in a Twitter event, called Meteorwatch, where observers can post their text, images and videos to share them with other observers (and also for those having less favorable locations. Anyone with Internet access can join in by following @virtualastro and the #meteorwatch hashtag on Twitter.

Sources: RAS, Sky & Telescope,

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

Recent Posts

Dust Devils and Strong Winds Produce the Constant Haze on Mars

Dust is an everyday feature on Mars and wreaks havoc on various pieces of equipment…

4 hours ago

Giant Sunspot AR3038 has Doubled in Size and is Pointed Right at Earth. Could be Auroras Coming

Sunspots are typically no real reason to worry, even if they double in size overnight…

8 hours ago

Remember That Rocket That was Going to Crash Into the Moon? Scientists Think They've Found the Crater

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) – NASA’s eye-in-the-sky in orbit around the Moon – has…

8 hours ago

Supernovae Were Discovered in all These Galaxies

The Hubble space telescope has provided some of the most spectacular astronomical pictures ever taken.…

10 hours ago

VY Canis Majoris is Dying, and Astronomers are Watching

Three-dimensional models of astronomical objects can be ridiculously complex. They can range from black holes…

11 hours ago

NASA Funds the Development of a Nuclear Reactor on the Moon That Would Last for 10 Years

If NASA's Artemis project to return to the Moon permanently is going to succeed, it…

15 hours ago