Meteor Shower Peaks Monday Night

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 12, 2010 – 4:58 pm -

Look towards the Northeast this week after 9 pm for the Geminid metoer shower radiating out from the Gemini constellation.

Look towards the Northeast this week after 9 pm for the Geminid meteor shower radiating out from the Gemini constellation.

While winter is just around the corner, get set for the night sky to kick off the holiday season a little early. The Gemini meteor shower will set the sky ablaze this coming Monday and early Tuesday morning (Dec 13 and Dec.14).

Astronomers are predicting that with the Moon being a no show on peak hours (between 1 am to 4 am local time), folks in the light polluted suburbs should see as many as 30 to 50 meteors per hour streaking overhead – pending clear skies of course. If you can get out of the city, into a dark countryside then these numbers may rocket up to as many as 100 shooting stars hourly the following morning.

Geminids get their name form their parent constellation they appear to radiate out from in the sky. In this case that is the famous zodiac constellation Gemini – the twins, which rises above the eastern horizon after 9 pm your local time. No need for binoculars or telescopes – just use your unaided eyes to scan the sky for brilliant flashed s of light that last only a second or two.  Geminids are known to be slower meteors because they are made of hard stony material that take longer to burn up in the upper atmosphere of Earth than most meteors we see. So they last longer and produce longer trails across the sky.

Mystery surrounds the origins of the Geminids. Unlike all other showers that are debris left behind by active comets, these meteors appear to originate from a large asteroid that orbits the Sun in the inner solar system.

More than 5 km wide, 3200 Phaethon is a strange object that may be an extinct comet that threw off a large cloud of sand-grain sized pebbles more than 2000 years ago to form the annual stargazing fireworks show we see today.

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