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The Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Soon & It Could Be The Biggest Of The Year!

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Our skies are rather busy this December, starting with the super full moon on the 11th and 12th, depending where you are, to the Geminid meteor shower peaking between the 13th and 14th and the finale of the month and year, the solar eclipse on the 26th.

Every December we pass through the debris left behind from 3200 Phaethon which is still under debate whether it’s a comet or an asteroid. According to NASA, the Geminid meteor stream usually has much more mass than any other shower we see on Earth, often producing spectacular shooting stars.

The Geminid shower peaks on the night of December 13th and into the morning of the 14th and the night of the 14th to the morning of the 15th depending on your location. Weather permitting, the Geminids should be visible worldwide. Under the right conditions one should be able to see up to 50-100 shooting stars per hour even though the moon will l be illuminating the night sky. Find the best time and date for your area then find the darkest spot you can, lie on your back, switch off electronic devices and lights to allow your eyes allow to adapt to the dark. You won’t need any special equipment to watch although having a buddy or two to enjoy the spectacle with would be fun and could be useful in checking different directions of the sky. Remember to dress warm and take a blanket or sleeping bag for comfort.

 NASA’s website has interesting information for viewing the Geminids meteor shower:

Find the darkest place you can, and give your eyes about 30 minutes to adapt to the dark. Avoid looking at your cell phone, as it will mess up your night vision. Lie flat on your back and look straight up, taking in as much sky as possible. You will soon start to see Geminid meteors. As the night progresses, the Geminid rate will increase, hitting a theoretical maximum of about 100 per hour around 2 a.m.

Bear in mind, this rate is for a perfect observer under perfect skies with Gemini straight overhead. The actual number for folks out in the dark countryside will be slightly more than 1 per minute. Folks in suburbs will see fewer, 30 to 40 per hour depending on the lighting conditions. And those downtown in major cities will see practically nothing – even though the Geminids are rich in beautiful green fireballs, the lights of New York, San Francisco, or Atlanta will blot even them out. Dark clear skies are the most important ingredient in observing meteor showers.

And while you’re scanning the sky for Geminids, you might notice a small, faint “ghostly” green patch in the constellation of Taurus – that’s Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which will be making its closest approach to Earth (7 million miles) for the next 20 years. We are actually going to have a comet visible to the unaided eye this holiday season!

If all else fails and you are unable to watch, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will broadcast footage of the shower (pending clear skies) starting at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 until 6 a.m. on Dec. 14 on Marshall’s Ustream account. You can also see Geminid meteors on NASA’s All Sky Fireball network page. Follow NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office on Facebook for information on meteor showers and fireballs throughout the year.

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