In just a few days (night of Dec 13/14th) the year Geminid meteor shower will reach it’s peak.
What is this and why is it so special you ask?
Well, Each December the Earth crosses the orbit of asteroid 3200 Phaethon where the debris of the asteroid in it’s orbital stream often crashes into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The asteroid is relatively small at approximately 3 miles across and orbits the sun every 1.4 years. Over it’s lifetime it’s debris has shed throughout its orbit forming a ‘river of rubble’ which is what the Earth passes through each December. The debris hit the Earth’s atmosphere at some 130,000 kilometers (80,000 miles) per hour causing it to vaporize as colorful Geminid meteors.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself under a clear, dark sky you may be able to see a shooting star every minute from about 10pm your local time. If, like me, you live in a more urban area you should still be able to see the brighter shooting stars, and whatsmore you don’t need any fancy equipment to watch it, just your eyes.
Ok So which part of the sky do I need to look at?
Good news, Geminids can appear anywhere in sky! Your best bet, however, is to look at the darkest bit, which is most likely straight above you. So wrap up warm and take a seat/lie down and watch the show.
If you trace the path of a Geminid shooting star back to its apparent origin the path should cross near to the stars castor and Pollux in the Gemini constellation, hence the name Geminid. This is called the radiant spot. It’s the perspective point from which all the Geminids would appear to come if you could see them approaching from far away, rather than just in the last second or so of their lives as they dive into Earth’s upper atmosphere.
So now we just have to keep our fingers crossed for a clear dry night!
Let me know if you manage to spot any, and even better if you manage to photograph any too!