Look Up: Geminid meteor shower expected to be best of 2020

Space Science

VVLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 15, 2018: A view of the sky over Russky Island off Vladivostok lit up by the Geminid meteor shower. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images)

MYSTERY WIRE — Stargazers have the opportunity to see what is being called the best meteor shower of the year this weekend.

The Geminid meteor shower will peak overnight Sunday into Monday morning and there should be excellent viewing because there will be no moon in the night sky.

During the shower, there are between 50 to 150 shooting stars every hour. It’s best viewed away from city lights and the best viewing will be around 2 a.m. (PT).

The Geminid Meteor shower is active from Dec. 4 – 17 but is most visible on Dec. 13 and 14.

According to Astromy.com, the Geminids have been traced back to an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon, whose highly inclined orbit carries it around the Sun once every 1.4 years. This orbit brings it closer to our star than any other asteroid.

VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK, NEVADA – DECEMBER 14: A Geminid meteor streaks between peaks of the Seven Sisters rock formation early on December 14, 2018 in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The meteor display, known as the Geminid meteor shower because it appears to radiate from the constellation Gemini, is thought to be the result of debris cast off from an asteroid-like object called 3200 Phaethon. The shower is visible every December. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Information below is provided by NASA.

Why are they called the Geminids?

All meteors associated with a shower have similar orbits, and they all appear to come from the same place in the sky, which is called the radiant. The Geminids appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini, hence the name “Geminids.”

How fast are Geminids?

Geminids travel 78,000 mph (35 km/s). This is over 1000 times faster than a cheetah, about 250 times faster than the swiftest car in the world, and over 40 times faster than a speeding bullet!

How to observe the Geminids?

If it’s not cloudy, get away from bright lights, lie on your back, and look up. Remember to let your eyes get adjusted to the dark – you’ll see more meteors that way. Keep in mind, this adjustment can take approximately 30 minutes. Don’t look at your cell phone screen, as it will ruin your night vision!

Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky. Avoid watching the radiant because meteors close to it have very short trails and are easily missed. When you see a meteor, try to trace it backwards. If you end up in the constellation Gemini, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Geminid.

When is the best time to observe Geminids?

The best night to see the shower is Dec. 13/14. The shower will peak around 01:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). Sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere can see Geminids starting around 7:30 – 8:00 p.m. local time on Dec. 13, with rate of meteors increasing as 2 a.m. approaches. In the Southern hemisphere, good rates will be seen between midnight and dawn local time on Dec. 14. Geminid watchers who observe from midnight to 4 a.m. should catch the most meteors.

How many Geminids can observers expect to see Dec. 13/14?

Realistically, the predicated rate for observers in the northern hemisphere is closer to 60 meteors per hour. This means you can expect to see an average of one Geminid per minute in dark skies at the shower peak. Observers in the southern hemisphere will see fewer Geminids than their northern hemisphere counterparts – perhaps 25% of rates in the northern hemisphere, depending on their latitude.

SALTBURN BY THE SEA, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 14: A meteor from the Geminid Meteor shower streaks across the night sky past Sirius on December 14, 2018 in Saltburn By The Sea, United Kingdom. The Geminid meteor shower is considered to be one of the best displays in the night sky, and this year will peak during the early hours of Friday. The Geminid meteors originate from a rocky asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon. Each year, the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by the asteroid as it orbits around the Sun. When the debris hits our planet’s atmosphere they burn up, producing streaks of light. The streaks in the sky, known as meteors, can be caused by particles as small as a grain of sand. Sirius, also known as the Dog Star is a binary star and is the brightest point of light in the night sky. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

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