Best Meteor Shower of 2012 this Week!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 11, 2012 – 9:24 pm -

Sky-watchers are in for an early holiday treat as mid-December marks the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, the most prolific and mysterious annual cosmic fireworks show.

The meteor shower has been growing in intensity in recent decades and should be better than usual this year because it falls during a nearly moonless week.

Dozens of shooting stars per hour should streak across the night sky on the night of December 13 and into the early hours of December 14, making the Geminids one of the strongest and most reliable celestial shows around!

And if this wasn’t enough NASA astronomers are predicting a surprise appearance of a new meteor shower – that may add an extra 20 to 30 meteors per hour on top of the Geminids.  Computer models are predicting that Earth will be slamming into a debris stream of short-period comet Wirtanen (disc.1948). Best time to look out for these new shooting stars is expected to be early evening on the 13th. Will it pan out? Only way to know is to look up and watch the sky show.

Read the rest of my Geminids story at National Geographic News

Skywatching Extra: If you are in Montreal area on Thursday (Dec.13) night then come join me for a meteor shower party at the Morgan Arboretum and hosted by RASC Montreal.  I will be giving a short lecture on meteor showers and then if skies are clear we will watch for shooting stars!  Details here.


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Geminid Meteor Shower Starting

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 13, 2011 – 8:19 am -

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 light up the sky starting tonight (Tuesday) into Wednesday morning and evening (Dec 13 and Dec.14).

Astronomers are predicting that with the Moon rising around 8 to 9 pm local times best is to go out before so you get to see as many as 30 to 50 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 increase.

For more details on the shower read my National Geographic story

Stay tuned here for worldwide LIVE hourly meteor counts starting shortly!


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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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New Night Sky Episode

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 11, 2010 – 11:24 am -

This week’s episode highlights the Geminid meteor shower peaking on December 14th.


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Geminid Photos

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 15, 2009 – 11:46 am -

Check out these photos of some Geminid meteors racing across the sky at 35  km per second on the night of December 13th, taken by a backyard astronomer in Belmar, New Jersey. Look carefully and you will notice that the shooting stars are zipping through the bright Orion constellation.


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Hard Rain of Geminids

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 14, 2009 – 10:37 am -

meteor-shower-icon1It’s the morning after the Geminids peak and early observati0ns from last night’s maximum are coming into the International Meteor Organization now and folks are reporting an average peak of 156 shooting stars per hour at peak time around 12:15 am EST. Check out the chart in my blog post below to see how the Geminid rate rocketed up overnight – exactly as predicted. Looks like meteor shower forecasting is really coming of age . With  counts like that there is still a great chance to see more meteors tonight – not at those amazing numbers – but still decent at 20 to 20 per hour, maybe more.  So if you can, head outside tonight and see some shooting stars!

When is the next great meteor shower? The annual Quadrantids on January 3rd usually supplies over 100 per hour. More on this new year show in a few weeks.

Don’t  forget you can also get late-breaking stargazing news anytime by following me on Twitter and Facebook, or get  email alerts sent directly to your inbox.


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Meteor Counts Rising

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 12, 2009 – 7:47 pm -

Update Dec.13, 10 am EST:  Overnight numbers of pre-peak Geminids are amazing. About 24 hours before the predicted peak observers reported seeing around 50 meteors per hour! Take a look at the chart below for details…With any luck those number should double or triple tonight.  More updates this afternoon.

 

Worldwide Geminid observers are already reporting that they are seeing meteor numbers slowly beginning to rise the day before the scheduled peak. Early numbers from Europe Saturday night are averaging about 17 shooting stars hourly, with some counts in the low 30’s! All this points to a great show Sunday night. Check out the chart below which shows the meteor numbers as reported LIVE around the globe to the International Meteor Organization, the clearinghouse for shooting star observations.
LIVE Geminid meteor observations

LIVE Geminid meteor observations


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