Headlines > News > Geminid meteor shower to peak on 14th December 2009

Geminid meteor shower to peak on 14th December 2009

Published by Matt on Fri Dec 4, 2009 10:25 am via: BNSC
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The annual Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak at 0510 GMT on 14th December. Meteors (or ‘shooting stars’) are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, heating up and then disintegrating.

The annual Geminid meteor shower. Credit: Jimmy Westlake

The annual Geminid meteor shower. Credit: Jimmy Westlake

The superheated air around them appears as a short-lived streak of light that quickly fades from view.

In this shower the meteors appear to emanate from a point in the constellation of Gemini, hence the name Geminid and are associated with the asteroid Phaethon, suspected to be an extinct comet. This year the peak of the shower is just two days before New Moon, so moonlight will not interfere with our view of the meteors.

Under ideal conditions, with a clear sky and far away from the lights of towns and cities, it may be possible to see more than 100 meteors each hour which could make the Geminids one of the best astronomical sights of 2009.

City lights are bad for meteor showers. The glare can reduce the number of meteors you see 3- to 10-fold. Consider taking a trip to the countryside. Because the Moon is two days before  new on Dec. 14th, country skies are going to be very dark and perfect for meteor watching.

Although the middle of the night is (probably) best, start looking for Geminids as soon as the sun goes down. The first dark hours after sunset are when Earthgrazers appear.

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