Get a second chance at stargazing with the Geminid Meteor Shower
Did you miss the Leonid meteor shower last month, and some have wishes you need to make? Don’t kick yourself too hard, because another winter meteor shower is set to peak later this week, and it'll showcase some brilliant shooting stars.
The annual Geminid meteor shower is viewable from December 13 and 14, throughout the night and early morning. Astronomers believe that, thanks to a combination of the shower's increased strength in recent years and its presence during a nearly moonless week, it’s set to be a pretty impressive display for stargazers.
Assuming good weather conditions, you should expect to see as many as 120 meteors an hour, but for the best view, try and get away from the city lights. The meteors travel across the sky at about 20 miles per second (fairly slow in comparison to other showers), leaving long arcs in their wake that should last about two seconds.
In previous years, ameteur stargazers often ovelooked the Geminid showers, but due to the sudden spike in intensity, this is no longer the case.
The Geminid shower trail comes from an asteroid-like object called Phaethon 3200. Speaking to National Geographic, Jim Todd, the planetarium manager at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, says that the object itself is about 3 miles wide, and that with each passing year, the Earth moves further into the path of the trail. That's why the Geminid Meteors look more impressive every year.
Phaethon 3200 remains something of a mystery, though, because scientists cannot determine if the object is an asteroid or a nearly-dead comet—it actually has attributes of both.
If you don’t mind being awake until 5am on Friday, put on a jacket and head outside to watch what could be a great show!