The Geminids meteor shower is here

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Stay up and look up for the late, late light show . It’s the Geminid meteor shower happening now. So think about where you can go to watch without interference from stores and street lights.

The annual spectacular night show (120 meteors per hour) peaks about 2 a.m. so that really means staying up very late, tonight, Dec. 12 into very, very early tomorrow morning or very late Friday Dec. 13 into very, very early Saturday a.m.

The problem this year, 2019, is the full moon. We’re always talking about finding a spot away from city and street lights. But have no suggestion for dimming down moon light.

However, maybe you will get lucky and a cloud will move across the moon. Or turn your back on the moon and watch the sky away from that bright orb. Or try again very late Saturday night, early, early Sunday morning when the moon might still be bright but not quite as full.

Or turn Geminid watching into a party because the more people “star” gazing, the more likely someone will see a meteor.

BTW, the Geminids are not like the other meteor showers in that the meteorites zooming across the sky are not debris from a comet. They are coming from an ancient asteroid called the 3200 Phaethon. Although sometimes it’s called a “rock comet.”

As to the 2 a.m. watching time, the hour is when the constellation Gemini (The Twins), which is the area or radiant point from where the meteors seem to come, has moved high in the sky. It will seem as if the Geminids are coming from Castor, a bright star in the constellation.

There are several good sky watching resources. To learn more about meteors and the Geminids visit NASA, Space, Time and Date and EarthSky. Also see YouTube.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Look for Orionid meteors

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Look up! If the night sky is clear where you live watch for the Oronids, a major meteor shower produced by the debris from Halley’s comet.

Named for Orion the Hunter because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation, the Orionids have been already shooting across the sky and will do so into November. But they are peaking now through Oct. 22.

They have been known to shoot across the sky at 80 an hour but according to Bill Cooke a NASA they are likely to number from 30 to 40 per hour. They are very fast 148,000 mph so watch carefully.

The question is how much a factor is the moon which has waned to its half-phase. The full Hunters Moon has already passed but moonlight may make a difference. However, go to a spot without streetlights and commercial buildings. You won’t want binoculars because you are watching the whole sky.

Several astronomy sites have good charts and information on meteors. Take a look at Time and Date, Space and EarthySky.

Meteorites fly very early May 6

 

Meteor showers happen when Earth is in a comet's orbital path and comet debris fly across the sky. (NASA photo)
Meteor showers happen when Earth is in a comet’s orbital path and comet debris fly across the sky. (NASA photo)

If looking up before dawn Sunday, May 6, 2019 you may “catch” a falling star, except it really would be one of the Eta Aquarids meteorites.

Between 30 to 50 of these meteorites, seemingly shooting from a poin(the radiant) just north of Aquarius, is a shower of debris from the Halley Comet. The second Halley Comet meteor shower is the Orionids which peak about Oct. 20.

Where to look east by south east past (east of) Pegasus north of Aquarius

Need away from street and commercial lights. Should be good viewing, new moon had may 4 so just emerging into first quarter.

A good site to use for meteor showers is Time and Date., https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/eta-aquarids.html

 

 

Best meteor shower this year

Meteors are flying over head that seem to come from the Gemini Constellation. (Photo courtesy of Gregg Dinderman/Sky & Telescope
Meteors are flying over head that seem to come from the Gemini Constellation. (Photo courtesy of Gregg Dinderman/Sky & Telescope

 

 

If it’s the second week of December it’s Geminid time!

Get an armful of warm blankets, a mat and find a place to lie down where there aren’t any street or other lights to interfere with meteor spotting.

Bring a buddy or BFF to help and keep you company because the best time to see the Geminids, a meteor shower that can have 120 meteors racing across the sky, is between 11:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 2:30 a.m. Dec. 14.

Well actually, the Geminids have already begun but there aren’t as many now as will be seen in a couple of nights. They are named for the Gemini (Twins) Constellation because it seems as if the meteors come from somewhere near the constellation’s star Castor.

No telescope is needed. Just hope that the weather cooperates and the sky is clear and look up. It may take a little while, maybe even an hour, to adjust to the night sky before “catching a falling star (translate that as meteor). But be patient. The meteors are out there.

Two good sites that have more information are Space and Time and Date.

 

Good luck and enjoy the sky show