Once again we turn our eyes towards the sky to witness one of the most sensational celestial events of the year. Tuesday night, put on some warm clothes, grab a cup of hot tea and prepare to catch the Geminid meteor shower.
In all fairness, 2011 was a year full of the best celestial events. In fact, only one week ago, people across North America could witness a beautiful red blooded supersized total lunar eclipse. Not something you get to see very often.
Scientists with NASA say the Geminid meteor shower will peak Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and you should be able to enjoy around 40 meteors per hour is the weather conditions are good and if the full moon’s light won’t affect the visibility.
Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office said: “Observers with clear skies could see as many as 40 Geminids per hour. Our all-sky network of meteor camera has captured several early Geminid fireballs”. And despite concerns regarding the moon’s luminosity, Cooke said the camera had no problem recording the fireballs.
If you missed the December 13/14 meteor shower, don’t despair. There’s another one ‘scheduled’ for December 22/23, which is also the last and maximum shower and the best news is that the New Moon will not hinder visibility.
The Geminid meteor shower has become one of the most sensational annual celestial event. Cooke explained this is still a “relatively young meteor shower”, which “didn’t really turn on until the 1830s”. However, “they’ve been gradually increasing in strength over the years, and now they’re the strongest meteor shower of the year”.
What should you expect to see? Well, Space.com says that the Geminids produce stunning fireballs which should be bright enough to see even with the moonlight. Astronomer Joe Rao points out that the Geminid shower features slow and bright meteors, with some of them appearing yellowish in color.
The meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Gemini, because the meteors seem to radiate from this point in the sky. Scientists explain what we are actually seeing is debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. The asteroid orbits closer to the sun, than any other studied rock.