Get ready for Geminids!

This is one of the more reliable meteor showers, and usually a decent performer.  The shower’s been underway for about a week now, but the peek will come on the night of Dec 13-14, favoring northern hemisphere viewers.  Astronomers predict up to 120 meteors per hour from dark sky locations, and I’ve seen some very impressive Geminids before so it’s worth giving it a look — if you have decent weather.  The weather forecast here is predictably awful, so I will have to live vicariously through those with clear skies.  😉  But if there’s a break in the clouds where you are, give it a chance and take a look!  You might see something nice.

The Geminids are an unusual meteor shower; they were the first to be associated with their progenitor object, but their object isn’t a comet — or at least, isn’t a normal one.  It’s the only meteor shower not associated with a comet.  The orbit of the debris closely matches asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which has occasionally produced a faint comet-like tail leading astronomers to call it a “rock comet”.  The Geminids may be debris from a long-ago outburst, or from an impact with another body — either way, they’re well worth watching.

As with any meteor shower, don’t bother bringing a telescope — your eyeballs are the only viewing equipment you need.  Warm clothes are a must, especially this time of year in the northern hemisphere, and either a comfortable deck chair or a blanket will help you lie back and get as much of the sky as you can in your field of view.  Then, all you need next is patience.  😉  The Geminids appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, but they can appear anywhere in the sky.  Near local midnight they will tend to be most numerous, but near dawn and dusk is is when you’re most likely to spot earthgrazers, the most spectacular meteors because they pass more shallowly through the atmosphere and take longer to burn up.

Lots more information about Geminid viewing.  😉

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Get ready for Geminids!

  1. Tim

    I saw a spectacular Geminid, once… walked out for something down at a friends’ ‘across the river’ and away from all the lights — saw my shadow in green and turned around to see the thing streaking across from east to west. It left a long-lingering green and red turbulent-looking trail.

    If you’re socked in clouds, you might try *radio skip* to at least listen to them. I’m sure you’re familiar with this but if not then you tune your FM to somewhere quiet in-between stations (analog is easier) and every now and again a far away station will refract back off the ionization and burst in clearly for a few seconds — Somehow, I always get assaulted with something from the Ozarks.

    Wind profiler technicians *may* be able to get a high altitude return off those trails if they piddle with the prf/range gating a bit out of spec and possibly hold a fixed beam… I really don’t know, It just *seems* plausible to me.

    • That sounds awesome! I saw a fairly dense Geminid shower at my inlaws ‘ place about fifteen years ago; I was hoping for a repeat this year, but we got dense fog instead. I listened to spaceweatherradio instead. 😉 Thanks for the radio suggestion; we’ll give it a shot for the Ursids!

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