Don’t miss the Geminids meteor shower this weekend

Geminids meteor shower

The Geminids meteor show occurs from December 4-17 but the peak is happening on the weekend of December 11-14 with the peak nights expected to be on December 13-14 (Sunday night until dawn Monday).

The parent of the Geminids is 3200 Phaethon, which NASA says is either an asteroid or an extinct comet. “When the Earth passes through trails of dust, or meteoroids, left by 3200 Phaethon, that dust burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, creating the Geminid meteor shower,” according to NASA.

The meteors are called ‘The Geminids’ because “they radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini,” NASA says.

https://www.meteorshowers.org/

The best time to watch the Geminid meteor shower is around 2 a.m. according to EarthSky.org. This is when the shower is at its highest point in the sky near the bright star Castor, located in the constellation of Gemini. According to EarthSky.org this is called the radiant point.

Best time to watch the Geminids meteor shower

If that is too late for you to stay up that late to watch the Geminid meteor shower you can still see it but it will be less intense. You need to look for the star Castor, which is expected to be fairly low in the east-northeast sky around 9 p.m. This star will appear super bright and near another star and sitting adjacent to another even brighter star, called Pollux. They are often referred to as the twin stars.

If you are having trouble finding the twin stars of Castor and Pollux they will be found near the constellation, Orion the Hunter to the east. Find the uppermost star of the very recognisable Orion’s belt, then draw a straight line out to the left of that star.

Follow the red line in this illustration from the furthest star of Orion’s belt, across to the twin stars of Castor and Pollux. Here you will find the greatest number of ‘shooting stars’ EarthSky.org

These twin stars gradually swing upward as the night progresses and are expected to reach a point straight up overhead at around 2 a.m. The meteor shower will follow suit and at this ‘radiant point’ the most meteors will be viewable.

How long will the Best time to watch the Geminids meteor shower last?

If you really can’t locate the radiant point of the Geminid meteor shower, don’t despair because meteors will appear all over of the sky but the prime viewing area will most likely become obvious.

Of course the best way to stargaze is to leave go somewhere with the least light pollution. The darker the sky, the more visible the shower will be, which is why the later the night becomes the more visible the Geminids will be.

It takes a good 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark, so it is advised to watch the sky for at least that long if not more because meteor showers happen in intermittent waves so -to-speak.

Meteors showers are bits of debris left behind by comets moving in orbit around our sun. According to NASA, the Geminid meteors travel 78,000 mph (35 km/s). “This is over 1000 times faster than a cheetah, about 250 times faster than the swiftest car in the world, and over 40 times faster than a speeding bullet!”

by TOTimes staff

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