June 23, 2018

Finest meteor bathe of the 12 months begins Wednesday evening

13 December 2017, 04:48 | Lionel James

Finest meteor bathe of the 12 months begins Wednesday evening

The Geminids are coming

Around midnight, claims you may be able to see as many as 120 meteors overhead each hour, but there will be plenty of opportunities before the witching hour by looking towards the eastern sky.

"Meteors are a bit like buses - you'll wait ages for them to come along and then all of a sudden a whole bunch will come at once", Dr Musgrave said.

It's hasn't been the best year for meteor showers - the Taurids didn't have a very active year and a almost full moon blocked much of the Perseids. "Expect to see about 60 meteors per hour before midnight on December 13 and from midnight-3:30 a.m. on December 14 from a dark sky", NASA quoted night sky expert Jane Jones as saying.

The meteor shower was named after the constellation Gemini because numerous meteors appear to come from that constellation.

The Geminids were first noted as a minor meteor shower back in 1862, NASA's Cooke said. But December's Geminids are different, because Earth is passing through the debris of an asteroid: Phaethon. Sadly, clouds will be too thick for many of us to see the meteors.

"Depending on the time you observe and local light pollution, counts will vary", King said. The next time 3200 Phaethon approaches Earth at such a close distance will be 2093. "If you end up in the constellation Gemini, there's a good chance you've seen a Geminid".

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At about magnitude 10.5, it will be visible using amateur telescopes. "Just like a normal star except that it's moving", Dr Horner said.

The presence of a waxing crescent moon this month should aid you, by not obscuring the show with moonlight.

There are plenty of other lovely things to see in the December night sky, Dr Musgrave said.

"You've got Pleiades, you've got Taurus, you've got Orion".

So pack your camera, deckchair and insect repellent for a night under the stars.

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