Bundle up Sunday Night to Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower
As we approach the winter solstice, you might find yourself cursing the increasingly short days. But if you’re an astronomy fan—or just a hot cocoa enthusiast who enjoys a good show—the long hours of dark will be a blessing this weekend as the Geminid meteor shower, one of the most visible and reliable showers, makes it appearance.
The Geminid shower peaks the night of December 13/14. Although often considered a poor cousin to August’s Perseid shower, the Geminids often put on a better show [Astronomy]. And this year the moon won’t hinder the Geminid display—it won’t rise until nearly 6 a.m., when dawn will already be upon us.
Like the Leonid meteors we see in the constellation Leo, which made an appearance last month, the Geminids are so named because of their apparent origin, the constellation Gemini. The shower’s radiant, the point in the sky from which they all seem to originate, is near Castor and Pollux. It’s well up in the east by 9 or 10 p.m. and crosses near the zenith (for mid-northern observers) around 2 a.m [Sky & Telescope]. The Geminids are strange, too. Their parent object isn’t a comet, which is the case for the Leonids and most other showers, but rather an asteroid with a trail of debris. Astronomers aren’t 100 percent sure what going on here; the asteroid could be the nucleus of a comet that lost all its other material.
If you brave the cold Sunday night, you could get quite a show. Depending on dark your location is, and how much of the sky you can see, meteors may streak into view that night at an average rate of one or two per minute [SPACE.com].