December 6th, 2012 by James Ayre
The Geminids meteor shower will be peaking the night of December 13, 2012, this year. The Geminids are regularly one of the best meteor showers of the year, and are looking to be especially spectacular this year, as the peak coincides with the new moon.
The last large meteor shower of every year, the Geminids produce an incredible 50 or more meteors per hour. While the peak is occurring the night/early morning of the 13/14, the meteor shower will be very visible for a couple of nights before and after that.
And in contrast to most meteor showers, you can start watching for the very early in the night, by 9 or 10 p.m. in your local time. The peak will be hitting sometime around 2 a.m. local time on these nights, “because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world. With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14.”
And if you live in more northern latitudes, there is always the possibility of solar activity creating auroras to watch along with the meteor shower.
Some basic tips on watching meteor showers are below:
One: Get in a comfortable position, a reclining lawn chair and some blankets are good ideas.
Two: Dress warmly, and maybe bring something warm to drink.
Three: Get out of the city if you can, the light pollution from city lights greatly diminishes the number and intensity of of the meteors that you can see. A clear, dark sky is what you want.
Some background on the Geminids:
“The Geminids are a meteor shower caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock comet” orbit. This would make the Geminids, together with the Quadrantids, the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet. The meteors from this shower are slow moving, can be seen in December and usually peak around the 13th – 14th of the month, with the date of highest intensity being the morning of the 14th. The shower is thought to be intensifying every year and recent showers have seen 120–160 meteors per hour under optimal conditions, generally around 2am to 3am local time. Geminids were first observed in 1862, much more recently than other showers such as the Perseids (36 AD) and Leonids (902 AD).”
“The meteors in this shower appear to come from a radiant in the constellation Gemini (hence the shower’s name). However, they can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, and often appear yellowish in hue. The meteors travel at medium speed in relation to other showers, at about 22 miles per second, making them fairly easy to spot. The Geminids are now considered by many to be the most consistent and active annual shower. Geminids disappear while at heights above 38 kilometres (24 mi).”
“In 2005, viewing of the shower was restricted due to a full moon washing out the fainter meteors. The 2006 shower had a less full moon, however the 2007 shower was a new moon, with the best viewing position being in the southern hemisphere, with Australia, New Zealand and Chile being noted spectacle locales. In 2008, the Geminids coincided with a full moon. In 2009, the peak date occurred two days before a new moon.”
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