By Peter Becker
More Content Now
Be sure to look for the Geminid meteor shower this weekend. Although it may be cold out, this is one of the best meteor displays of the whole year.
Peak viewing is expected during the late evening Saturday, Dec. 13, and early morning Sunday, Dec. 14. If you don't get a chance to look then, you can still expect to see some meteors for a few nights afterward.
Although the last-quarter moon will rise around midnight, Geminid meteors tend to be bright. The later at night you look, the greater will be the intensity of the display.
You may see a few in the early or mid-evening hours before midnight. These meteors tend to be long, as they graze the Earth's atmosphere. The reason we see more of a meteor shower after midnight is that the Earth in its orbit is plowing into the path of the meteor stream, and as our world turns, after midnight we are facing the forward-side of the Earth and meet the meteor shower head-on.
Under ideal conditions - with no moon and under a wide-open sky late at night, you might count 50 or more meteors an hour from the Geminid stream.
Most meteor showers are particles of rock and dust from a disintegrated comet. The Geminids are unusual in that astronomers have traced their origin back to the break-up of an asteroid.
Their name comes from the constellation Gemini the Twins, from where they appear to radiate. You can look for them anywhere in the sky, but the path of Geminid meteors will always trace back to this constellation. Gemini may be seen left of Orion, in the east during evening hours.
If the weather is very cold - at freezing or below - you can still consider spending some time outside watching for meteors if you prepare. Some advice includes dressing in layers, leaving as little skin exposed as possible. Wear a winter hat. A thermos of hot beverage can help. Hunter's hand-warmers and foot-warmers can help you endure! Try a nice warm sleeping bag on a reclining lawn chair.
It takes a few minutes to let your eyes adapt to the darkness; you could do this while still inside the warm house!
Or you can look from a window from a darkened (warm) room, if it gives you a good open view of the sky. You may see less meteors that way, because the window may restrict you.
No telescope or binoculars are needed. All you should use are your own eyes to enjoy the meteor show.
While you are out watching, look for the bright planet Jupiter, which is currently rising around 10 p.m., in the east-northeast.
Keep looking up!
Looking Up: It's Geminid meteor time!
By Peter Becker