Geminid Meteor Shower
The Geminid Meteor Shower (Geminids) are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year and meteor enthusiasts are certain to circle December 13th and 14th on their calendars.
The Geminid Meteor Shower is one of the major meteor showers that provide good activity prior to midnight as the constellation of Gemini is well placed from 10 pm onward. These meteors are also seen in the southern hemisphere, but only during the middle of the night and at a reduced rate.
Geminids are pieces of debris from a strange object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. It is, basically, the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini.
In 2015 the peak of the meteor shower fell on a new moon, making for excellent dark skies. Last years Full Moon meant that it was very difficult to see any meteors. This year the moon is a waning crescent, so the skies won't be completely dark, but the thin crescent shouldn't be too disruptive to this bright meteor shower. Should the skies be clear we could be in for an awesome meteor shower with up to 100 meteors per hour. The peak night of the 2017 Geminid meteor shower is December 13th (evening of December 13th until dawn December 14th)
How to See The Gemind Meteor Shower
Meteor showers are really easy to view, and you don't need any special equipment. It helps to get out of cities away from artificial lights and light pollution. Take warm clothes, hot drinks and blanket or a comfortable chair with you. Viewing meteors, just like all astronomy, is a waiting game and you need to be comfortable, especially during the winter months. Finally, you need to let your eyes adapt to the dark - avoid looking at your mobile phone or any other light as they will hinder night vision.
Meteors will always travel away from the constellation for which the shower is named. This apparent point of origin is called the "radiant." If you look directly at Gemini you will see meteors radiate out from the constellation. Lying down and observing overhead can be the best way to observe meteor showers.
Photographing Meteor Showers
For photographing meteor showers a digital camera mounted on a tripod is essential to steady the images. Meteors will move swiftly across the sky so a quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of Geminid "prime-time" can also produce great results. Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.
Last updated on: Tuesday 12th December 2017
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