Skywatchers prepare to witness the Geminid meteor shower, which astronomers consider one of the best and most reliable of the 30 or so Annual meteor showers. This year Gemini The rush is late on a Tuesday night Early Wednesday morning – though the light from a waning gibbing moon is expected to wash out the faint meteors.
“The moon is a bummer,” said Bill Cook, an astronomer in the Meteorite Environment Office at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The moon will be about 75% illuminated Added at peak shower night.
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Weather permitting, northern hemisphere skywatchers will likely glimpse 30 to 40 meteors per hour during this year’s peak, according to Dr. Cook. This is down from about 150 hours during the peak when the skies are dark and viewing conditions are ideal.
Gemini You will reach peak rates at 5 a.m. ET on Wednesday, though the meteors should be visible starting late Tuesday night, according to NASA. To reduce interference from moonlight, consider heading out for a look just before moonrise, around 10pm local time, said Anna Gammon-Ross, an astronomer at Royal Museums Greenwich in London.
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Moonlight isn’t the only source of light that makes meteors difficult to see.
“The city lights completely fail to cooperate with this type of event,” said Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. He said that light pollution means that today’s skywatchers see fewer meteors than their predecessors did. But since the Geminids are fairly bright, he added, “you actually have a chance of seeing a bright Geminid every now and then during the night even in cities” if you watch patiently.
“You just need to be measured with your expectations,” said Dr. Krupp.
For the best viewing, find a dark spot away from city lights. Lie on your back with your feet pointing south. Dr. Cook said that positioning yourself so that something — like a house or a tree — blocks the direct light from the moon can boost your chances of seeing meteors.
It will take about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Leave your mobile phone in your pocket, as its light will impede this adjustment. And no binoculars or a telescope are needed, as they will limit your view to only a small part of the sky at a time.
Meteor showers happen When fast-moving bits of debris left behind by a comet or asteroid hit Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of Gemini, the Earth moves through it Wreckage from 3200 Phaethonsa space rock discovered in 1983. When dust and debris from Phaethon 3200 hit the atmosphere at about 78,000 miles per hour, it burns up, heating the air around it and leaving streaks in the sky.
The Geminids are named for the constellation Gemini, which is located in the region of the sky from which the meteors appear to have originated.
“It’s always impressive when people realize that an event that they’re seeing so attractive and so prominent in the night sky for a brief moment is caused by the smallest grain of material hitting Earth’s atmosphere so quickly that it’s heated up to glow,” said Dr. Krupp, adding that he hoped it would continue. This perspective “enters people’s imaginations when they think of meteors and meteor showers.”
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