After a week of slowly ramping up, the annual Geminid meteor shower kicks into high gear, reaching its peak in the overnight hours of Sunday, December 13. With the moon out of the way, sky conditions promise to be perfect for this celestial fireworks show.
Every year around mid-December, Earth plows into a cloud of debris left by the comet-like asteroid Phaethon, causing a shower of meteors that appears to come from the direction of the constellation Gemini.
Best views of the peak will be from the dark countryside, far from city lights, with up to 100 shooting stars visible per hour. From suburbs, these numbers are expected to drop to 20 to 60 meteors per hour, depending on local light-pollution levels. But even in urban centers across the Northern Hemisphere, the brightest meteors, called fireballs, should be easily visible under clear skies. The Geminids should produce a few fireballs during the peak hours from local midnight to just before dawn on Monday.
For this and other celestial events, visit my National Geographic column, Starstruck.
Tags: Gemini, Geminids, meteor shower
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Skywatchers across North America are waiting with much anticipation for a new meteor shower that may even rival the trusty Perseids in August.
Some predictions are calling for up to 200 shooting star per hour between 2 and 4 am Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, May 24th (11 pm on May 23 to 1 am PDT). And there is one prediction by an astronomer that it may even be a meteor storm coming our way with up to 1000 meteors per hour!
About three years ago astronomers studying comets and their deris stream made a prediction that on May 24, 2014 Earth may be graced by a never-before-seen meteor shower called the ‘May Camelopardilids’. Like all other showers, this one gets its name from the constellation where it appears to radiate out from, which in this case is Camelopardis – the giraffe.
While all this sounds extremely exciting we have to remember that these are based on computer models that are plotting out where Earth may be plowing through a cloud of debris floating between the inner planets. Meteor showers occur when our planet slams into a stream of particles left behind by comets. In this case its debris deposited in the 1800’s. So basically one big educated guess where exactly Earth will be crossing the cometary debris cloud that causes the meteor shower.
It could literally be the best sky show in decades or a big bust.
But since no one knows for sure, I know what I will be doing in the early morning hours of Saturday. Getting out my blanket, brew some hot chocolate and keep looking up.
Tags: meteor shower
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Warm summer nights and awe-inspiring shooting stars are an unbeatable combination!
That’s why skywatchers look forward to the annual Perseid meteor shower. Visible with the naked eye from the city to cottage country, dozens of “shooting stars” will light up the late-night skies. With the waxing crescent moon setting below the horizon in the early evening, the peak dates of August 11th through the 13th, this cosmic light show will surely put on an impressive display. Skywatchers get to see a flurry of shooting stars start 10 pm with rates increasing until pre-dawn hours. Anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour depending on local sky conditions and amount of light pollution.
Here also is my Night Sky episode that talks all about the shower…
Tags: meteor shower, Perseids, science, space
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If you have clear skies early this Saturday (May 4) night through Monday (May 6) morning, watch for a minor meteor shower with a famous pedigree.
Known as the Eta Aquarids, this annual shooting-star show is set to peak in the predawn hours of May 5, with rates of 10 to 40 meteors an hour. While not a spectacular show like its August cousin, the Perseids, the cool factor for sky-watchers is that all those modest meteors are bits of debris from Halley’s Comet.
Tags: Eta-Aquarids, Halley's comet, meteor shower
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Based on the latest weather forecast models here are the expected weather conditions across the north American continent for Sunday night into the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, April 22nd.
Tags: Lyrids, meteor shower
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This week on the Weather Network I give a rundown on why the Lyrid meteor shower happens, what to expect to see, and how best to enjoy this annual celestial event. Check it out…
Tags: Lyrids, meteor shower
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Skywatchers should get ready for some April showers but of a cosmic kind. The annual Lyrid meteor shower is set to peak overnight from April 21 into April 22, and for those that head out to dark skies away from city light pollution should be able to see as many as 15 to 20 shooting stars per hour if sky conditions hold up during peak time.
Get all your observing tips at my article on National Geographic News
Tags: Lyrids, meteor shower
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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.
Tags: Geminids, meteor shower
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Skywatchers get ready for a display in meteors to grace Earthly skies as the famous, annual Leonid shower peaks this weekend.
Like most meteor showers the Leonids are caused by Earth plowing through the dust trail left behind a comet, in this case 2 km wide Tempel-Tuttle, which circles the Sun every 33 years. When the comet gets close to the sun, melting ice releases pieces of dust, most no larger than a grain of sand and deposits them in clumps.
Tags: Leonids, meteor shower
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Over the next week Earth will be slamming into a debris field left behind by one of the most famous cosmic visitors in history – Halley’s comet.
While the icy interloper won’t return to our neck of the woods for another five decades, it still puts on a yearly sky show in the form of the Orionid meteor shower which peaks in the early morning hours of October 21st.
Tags: Halley's comet, meteor shower, Orionids
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