Bathing in Nature’s Interstellar Shower

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (11/21/12) – Each year, seasoned astronomers and weekend star gazers all over the globe mark their calendars for two of the most prolific and consistent meteor showers viewable from our planet: the Perseids of August and the December Geminids. And while the warm wind of August is well behind us, as are the Perseids, a dark sky and what should prove to be a lengthy display of “falling stars” is a mere three weeks away. 

Named after the bright, centuries-old constellation from which they radiate—the constellation of Gemini—the winter-bound Geminids shower commonly produces 50 or more visible meteors each hour. Differing from many other showers, the Geminids may also start as early as 9 or 10pm (local time) during the height of their activity, which is scheduled to occur on the night of December 13th and during the early morning hours of December 14th this year. Specifically, astronomers project that the shower will reach its pinnacle between 1am and 3am. 

Though the light of the moon can often times hinder an otherwise successful viewing of meteor displays such as the Geminids, it seems that the night and pre-dawn hours of December 13th and 14th will be free from any lunar light pollution thanks to the new moon. This being said, it’s a safe bet that additional, though more intermittent, meteors will be visible during the night sky up to a week before and after the peak. 

So what’s the best way to watch the meteor shower? Here are some tips:

•  First and foremost, you’ll want to locate an open and public vantage point that is as far removed from light pollution as is possible (this includes everything from glowing city lights to the lights of a car or nearby security light). Fortunately, Hopkins County has plenty of rural areas that are perfect for such an occasion. 

•  Secondly, it’s important to remember that watching for meteors is really all about getting out and enjoying the fruits of nature. While the Geminids shower is legendary because of the powerful and dependable displays it can produce, it would take a lot of patience to catch each and every one of the 50 or more meteors the annual shower can create. 

•  Third, don’t forget to make yourself comfortable while gazing at the night sky. Bring a chair or seat, check the weather, and dress appropriately for the climate.

•  Finally, make sure you’re looking for meteors at the right time. To reiterate, the Geminids will be peaking from 9/10pm (local time) on the night of December 13th until the predawn hours of December 14th, with the “climax” estimated to take place from 1am through 3am on December 14th. 

Wondering what the shower might actually look like? Check out a stunning time-lapse film of the 2010 Geminids shower composed by Henry Jun Wah Lee by clicking the video player attached to this article. 

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photo by Jeff Harp
Information provided by EarthSky.org 

 

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