The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks in the wee hours of December 14, 2012. And although it will likely be a cold night, this year’s version might be worth a look.
1. Almost no moon glow to spoil the show! The night of Dec. 13-14 is actually a night of the null moon, this time around.
2. Skies will be especially dark, and the cold weather can actually magnify the clarity of the skies. And if skies are clear, more than 100 meteors an hour should be visible. Some years, the Geminids have produced up to 160 meteors per hour.
3. The Geminids seem to move more slowly than other meteors, from showers such as the Leonids, Orionids and Perseids. Perhaps this is because they originate from an asteroid that passes Earth, and not a comet, like the other big meteor showers.
The Geminids are a fairly recent astronomical phenomenon, having been seen only since the time of the American Civil War. The Perseids, Leonids, etc., have been around many hundreds, if not thousands of years.
And the best thing of all about the Geminids: they seem to be getting better each year. So bundle up. For best viewing, check the western skies around you about 2:00-3:00 a.m. local time. (The Geminids seem to rise in the northeastern sky after sunset, and track across the sky to set in the west/southwest about dawn; thanks to the terrific StarWalk app for this not-readily available info.) And happy meteor hunting!
P.S. If you are too lazy to go outside, watch the meteors live on NASA’s webcam: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids2012.html
P.P.S. If you miss them entirely the morning of the 14th, don’t despair. Some meteors still should be visible up about the same time the mornings of the 15th, 16th and 17th.
December 13, 2012