Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Heads up! Geminid meteor shower peaks this week

The year's most spectacular meteor shower is this weekend How to Spot This Year's Spectacular Geminids Meteor Shower
Andrew Wong | 13 December, 2018, 22:13

And even though the Perseids meteor shower in August is better known, astronomers agree that you won't experience a more brilliant display of starlight than the Geminids.

An annual shower of meteors is expected to light up the sky on Thursday with up to 120 shooting stars every hour.

According to Sky & Telescope, the Geminids are set to peak at 7:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT) on December 14, when Earth plunges through the thickest part of the trail of dust and debris left behind by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon as it orbits the sun.

Media captionWhat is the Geminid Meteor Show?

As the night will be chilly one, with Berkeley expecting to reach a low of 49 degrees, meteor watchers are encouraged to dress accordingly. That's because, from our vantage point on the ground, the meteors seem to move more quickly as the Earth turns towards Gemini; during the earlier hours of the night, the meteors will appear longer and more sluggish. This will occur from late tonight to the early hours of tomorrow morning, with 2am offering ideal viewing conditions. The source of the shower is known to come from the asteroid 3,200 Phaethon that take 1.4 years to orbit the sun.

The meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky, so you don't need to look in any particular direction.

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Simply wait for the moon to set around 10:30 pm as its light will wash out the meteor shower.

For the best viewing conditions, get as far away from city lights as possible, face South, and do not forget to dress warmly as you enjoy one of the greatest shows on-or above-earth. Phaethon is a unusual blue asteroid that scientists named after its namesake- the Greek God Apollo's son. The shower is associated with 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid that is believed to have collided with another object many years ago.

You should be able to spot the shooting stars without a telescope. "From the Southern Hemisphere, observers should see fewer but still plenty of medium-speed meteors once Gemini rises above the horizon after midnight local time".

As they burn up they create bright flashes of light which streak across the sky and can vary in style and colour.

NASA suggests going to the darkest place you can, give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to the dark, including looking at your cell phone.

Patience is your best friend when watching a meteor shower.

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