This December 13/14th sees another great meteor shower! Radiating from the constellation of Gemini this annual meteor shower is one of the years best! Best yet, there is no moon to obscure the 2015 Geminid shower. The meteors are plentiful, rivaling the August Perseids, with perhaps 50 to 100 meteors per hour visible at the peak. Plus Geminid meteors are often bright. These meteors are often about as good in the evening as in the hours between midnight and dawn. This year, the slender waxing crescent moon will set soon after the sun, providing a wonderful cover of darkness for the Geminid meteor shower.
Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. Geminid meteors are bright providing a great sight for observers! This shower favours Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, but it’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too.
The Geminids also provide observers with the opportunity to see an earthgrazer meteor during early evening. You won’t see as many Geminid meteors when the constellation Gemini sits close to the eastern horizon during the evening hours. As night passes, the Geminid’s radiant will climb upward, so that the meteors will be raining down from a point that’s higher in the sky. Even so, the evening hours are the best time to try to catch an earthgrazer meteor.
Earthgrazers are rarely seen but prove to be especially memorable, if you should be lucky enough to catch one. An earthgrazer is a slow-moving, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky.
Why are these meteors called the Geminids? If you trace the paths of the Geminid meteors backward, they all seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini, hence the reason for the meteor shower’s name.
In fact, the radiant point of this meteor shower nearly coincides with the bright star Castor. However, the radiant point and the star Castor just happen to be a chance alignment, as Castor lies about 52 lightyears away while these meteors burn up in the upper atmosphere, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) above the Earth’s surface.
You don’t need to find the constellation Gemini to watch the Geminid meteor shower. These medium-speed meteors streak the nighttime in many different directions and in front of numerous age-old constellations. It’s even possible to see a Geminid meteor when looking directly away from the shower’s radiant point. However, if you trace the path of any Geminid meteor backward, it’ll lead you back to the constellation of Gemini the twins.
What causes the Geminid meteor shower? Unlike most meteor showers that are caused by earth passing through the debris left behind by comets the Gemini’s are caused by our planet Earth crossing the orbital path of asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
In periods of 1.43 years, this small 5-kilometer (3-mile) wide asteroid-type object swings extremely close to the sun (to within one-third of Mercury’s distance), at which juncture intense thermal fracturing causes this rocky body to crack and crumble, and to shed rubble into its orbital stream. Annually, at this time of year, the debris from 3200 Phaethon crashes into Earth’s upper atmosphere at some 130,000 kilometers (80,000 miles) per hour, to vaporize as colorful Geminid meteors.
Hopefully the weather will be kind and you will get the opportunity to enjoy this great celestial event. Dark Sky Wales will be hosting events all over the weekend and days leading up to it the peak. To find out more details follow the links below.
Dark Sky Wales are once again teaming up with the Brecon Beacons National Park to enjoy the event under the dark skies of the IDA accredited park. Tickets for the event can be bought at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/geminid-meteor-shower-stargazing-event-8th-and-9th-december-2016-tickets-28345402863