Now that this year’s supermoon is behind us, we are eagerly expecting one of the most spectacular meteor showers of this year, the Geminid meteor shower, which will peak during the night of Dec. 13 and early morning of Dec. 14. If you are fond of astronomy you might be interested in what to expect during the night shower and how to get the perfect view.
What makes the upcoming meteor shower exciting is that each meteor is very bright, and it has high hourly peak rates of about 120 meteors an hour, the peak usually being around 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Unfortunately, under light-polluted skies, you won’t be able to catch a glimpse of as many, as they won’t be as clearly visible. The Geminid meteor shower is almost 200 years old, records say. People caught a glimpse of it in 1833 for the first time on the Mississippi River, and it has become even brighter over the years.
The Geminids emanate from the constellation Gemini, and while the meteors will seem to be coming from Gemini, they can still appear all over the sky. Most of us know the constellation Orion, so if you look up at Orion, and then look up from there, that is the general area of Gemini. But space.com suggests that to get the best view, it’s advisable to look a bit away from Gemini so that you will see the meteors with longer “tails” better. If you stare directly at Gemini, you will only catch a glimpse of meteors that don’t travel as far.
The Geminids are connected with an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon which is expected to pass relatively close to the Earth. The asteroid was thought to have emerged from a collision with another object in the past which could have caused the creation of the particles that are displayed as a meteor shower on Earth.
The 3200 Phaethon orbits our sun every 1.4 years and at times it gets close to our planet, though at a safe distance. Additionally, it gets close to the sun near Mercury’s orbit.
Rocks that are located in space and that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids. Those that fly through our atmosphere are called meteors, but if they reach the ground they are called meteorites. However, that won’t be the case with the Geminid meteor shower, as the particles are too small.
You will be able to observe the meteor shower with the naked eye, but binoculars and telescopes could be helpful. Make sure to find a nice spot away from city lights to enjoy the shower!