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Get Ready Stargazers: The Geminids Are Here!

Get Ready Stargazers: The Geminids Are Here!

The Geminid meteor shower, one of the biggest meteor showers
of the year, will peak this weekend, December 13 to 14. We get a lot of questions about the Geminids—so
we’ve put together some answers to the ones we’re most commonly asked. Take a
look!  

What
are the Geminids?

The Geminids are pieces of debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.
Earth runs into Phaethon’s debris stream every year in mid-December, causing
meteors to fly from the direction of the constellation Gemini – hence the name
“Geminids.”  

image

Image Credit: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF

When is the best time to view them?

This year, the
peak is during the overnight hours of December 13 and into the morning of
December 14. Viewing should still be good on the night of December 14 into the
early morning hours of the 15th. Weather
permitting, the Geminids can be viewed from around midnight to 4 a.m. local
time. The best time to see them is around 2 a.m. your local time on December
14, when the Geminid radiant is highest in your night sky. The higher the
radiant – the celestial point in the sky
from which meteors appear to originate
– rises into the sky, the more meteors you are likely to see.

Get Ready Stargazers: The Geminids Are Here!

Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Dai

What
is the best way to see them?

Find the darkest place you can and give your eyes about 30 minutes to
adapt to the dark. Avoid looking at your cell phone, as it will disrupt your
night vision. Lie flat on your back and look straight up, taking in as much sky
as possible. You will soon start to see the Geminid meteors!

image

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

Can
you see the Geminids from anywhere in the world?

The Geminids
are best observed in the Northern Hemisphere, but no matter where you are in
the world (except Antarctica), some Geminids will be visible.

image

Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake

How
many Geminids can I expect to see?

Under dark,
clear skies, the Geminids can produce up to 120 meteors per hour – but this
year, a bright, nearly full moon will hinder observations of the shower. Still,
observers can hope to see up to 30 meteors per hour. Happy viewing!  

image


Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky

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