The GEMINIDS Are Coming! The GEMINIDS Are Coming!
By GHS Physics/Astro Classes on December 3, 2012, 9:45am Last modified: December 14, 2012, 11:26pm
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Most “meteor showers” are simply disappointing to most folks. Announcements are made with claims of, “Exciting night fireworks show tonight” or “Nature light display in the heavens late tonight!” The facts are that most meteor showers are simply too short-lived or too sparse for the average citizen to ever enjoy them. To be sure, a meteor shower is one of the most dramatic and wondrous natural phenomenon one can witness. Once you observe a real meteor shower, you are hooked.
Unfortunately, the last few showers we’ve had were quite disappointing. The Orionids in October and the Leonids in November were busts. The Orionids averaged only 40 meteors per hour and the Leonids averaged a paltry 20 per hour. This means a regular person would have to keep an eye on the night sky for 10 or 15 minutes before the chance of seeing even one meteor streak. The current shower, called the Phoenicids and peaking on 12/06/12, are so weak, you’d be lucky to see one streak all night.
Well, we have some news for you! The upcoming Geminid meteor shower promises to be one of the best showers of the past few years! This trusty annual shower promises to provide an average of 120-160 streaks per hour! That’s 2-3 per minute! So, you don’t have to wait long to see an impressive blazing streak. This year’s viewing is further enhanced by the absence of the moon’s glare. During the late night Thursday 12/13/12 peak, the moon is in New Moon phase; the side facing us is dark. This allows for very dark skies uninhibited by the glaring majesty of the moon’s normal glow. Data indicates the maximum number of streaks increases each year; increasing from a peak of 117/hr in 2006 to an all-time high of 198/hr just last year. So, yeah, we’re in for a treat.
So, want to know more about meteor showers, how to see them best, and in particular the Geminids? Start the slideshow.