Geminid meteors set to light up winter sky

Dec 13, 2012
Geminid meteors set to light up winter sky
An all-sky image of the 2004 Geminids meteor shower. Credit: Chris L. Peterson, Cloudbait Observatory

(Phys.org)—On the evening of 13 and the morning of 14 December, skywatchers across the world will be looking up as the Geminid meteor shower reaches its peak, in potentially one of the best night sky events of the year.

At its peak and in a clear, dark sky tens of '' or meteors may be visible each hour. Meteors are the result of small particles entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speed, burning up and super-heating the air around them, which then shines as a characteristic short-lived streak of light. In this case the debris is associated with the asteroidal object 3200 Phaethon, which many astronomers believe to be an extinct comet.

The meteors appear to originate from a 'radiant' in the of Gemini, hence the name Geminid. By 0200 GMT on 14 December the radiant will be almost overhead from the UK, making it ideally placed for observers. As a bonus, the Moon will not be present in the sky on the morning of maximum activity so the prospects for a good view of the shower are excellent. And unlike many , meteors are best seen without a telescope (and are also perfectly safe to watch).

Meteors in the Geminid shower are less well known than those at other times of year, probably because the weather in December is less reliable. But those who brave the cold can be rewarded with a fine view. In comparison with other showers, Geminid meteors travel fairly slowly, at around 35 km (22 miles) per second, are bright and have a yellowish hue, making them distinct and easy to spot.

According to the International Meteor Organisation, which coordinates meteor observations, the Geminids meteor shower will peak at around 2330 GMT on 13 December, but the highest level activity is spread over a period lasting a day or more. This means that if conditions are clear even casual observers may want to take a look until Saturday morning.

Explore further: 20,000 meteorites and counting: New book details productive collection program

More information: www.imo.net/calendar/2012#gem

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Geminid meteor shower to peak on 14th December 2009

Dec 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The annual Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak at 0510 GMT on 14th December. Meteors (or ‘shooting stars’) are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, heating ...

Geminid meteor shower 2011

Dec 07, 2011

Its the finale of this year’s meteor showers: The Geminids will start appearing on Dec. 7 and should reach peak activity around the 13th and 14th. This shower could put on a display of up to 100+ meteors ...

Nature's coming attraction: Geminid meteor shower

Dec 10, 2010

(AP) -- Stay tuned for nature's coming attraction. Early next week, the Geminid meteor shower will make its annual appearance, just in time for Christmas. Astronomers consider it the best meteor shower of ...

STAR TRAK for December

Dec 01, 2011

Venus will be at its dazzling brightest as December begins, appearing in the southwestern sky after sunset. This beautiful "evening star" will set two hours after the sun on Dec. 1 and an hour later at month's end.

Recommended for you

NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

7 hours ago

Setting up NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's secondary mirror in space will require special arms that resemble a tripod. NASA recently demonstrated that test in a NASA cleanroom and it was documented in ...

Iridium flares captured in real time by astrophotographer

15 hours ago

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation ...

Is Phobos doomed?

16 hours ago

"All these worlds are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there."

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.