Dec 8, 2010

The Geminid Meteor shower of December 13th (Winter’s Fireworks)

Early to mid December is the time for the yearly Geminids meteor shower, so named as its radiant appears to be the constellation Gemini.  First observed only about 150 years ago, the Geminids are thought to be getting more intense each passing year.  The shower is expected to peak around the 13th (next Monday night) this year, with great viewing from the 9th through the 13th.

The Geminids are unusual in that they are not caused by debris from a comet, but from 3200 Phaethon, an Apollo asteroid.  Discovered October 11, 1983, 3200 Phaethon is the first asteroid discovered by a spacecraft, and it approaches closer to the sun than any other numbered asteroid.

The Geminids (also known as Winter’s Fireworks) are somewhat slow moving, bright yellowish in color.  They are considered the most consistently active meteor shower; and this year will offer prime viewing conditions.  The moon will be in its first quarter, setting several hours before sunrise.

Amateur viewers are expected to be able to catch 100  – 120 streaks per hour at the most active times. Expect Earth grazers as Gemini rises, right after sunset, especially on the 13th.  The action should pick up from about midnight until dawn (applicable for all time zones), as Gemini moves overhead.
I have my thermos ready to go!

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