theThe meteor shower gets a lot of attention because it is active during warm summer nights in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Geminids are actually the strongest most years, and this year conditions are ideal. The Geminid meteor shower is officially active now, moving toward a large peak on Sunday, December 13 and Monday, December 14. At the peak of the shower, it might be possible to see up to 150 meteors per hour under ideal conditions.
Even better, this is one of the few major meteor showers that doesn’t require you to wake up long before sunrise to get the best part. According to the American Meteor Society, the Geminids provide “good activity before midnight, as the constellation Gemini is well located from 10pm onwards.”
This simply means that the celestial region from which the meteors will appear to emanate is located high up in the sky early in the evening. It will be at its highest around 2 am local time, but leaving before midnight still gives you a good chance to see a lot. Also, those hours are the best time to see slow, bright “land rodents” along the horizon.
Sky & Telescope magazine predicts that the peak time for the 2020 Geminids should arrive around 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET), making it ideal for many in the Americas to see them before the kids leave. sleep.
“It’s worth facing the cold during the peak of this rain,” says Diana Hannikainen, observation editor for Sky & Telescope. “The Geminids offer the best display of ‘shooting stars’ throughout the year.”
Bottom line: there is no bad time to search for Geminids. Besides, you don’t need stare at Gemini to see the Geminids. Meteors can appear anywhere in the night sky, but they will normally move far of Gemini.
Photos of the 2020 Perseid meteor shower glow brightly in a dark year
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Fortunately, the moon will be doing its part to provide those conditions by becoming scarce on those nights. It will only be the smallest sliver of a moon if it is visible, with the new moon falling on December 14. The rest depends on the local climate and your ability to find a wide, clear view of the night sky away from the light. contamination.
If you can handle that, all you need to do is dress appropriately, lie down, let your eyes adjust, relax, and observe. Geminids can range from faint, fleeting “shooting stars” to bright streaks of intense colors and perhaps even a fireball here and there. You will have a better chance of detecting meteors in the northern hemisphere, but the Geminids are also visible south of the equator, later in the evening and in fewer numbers.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome plans to host an online observing party.
We get meteor showers when Earth drifts through debris clouds, which are usually left behind by visiting comets. In the case of the Geminids, the debris comes from the so-called “rock comet”, believed to be a potentially extinct comet that roams the inner solar system.
I hope to put together a Geminid glam gallery this year. If you have astrophotography skills and manage to capture some great meteor photos, share them with me on Twitter or Instagram. @EricCMack.