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Forget the holiday lights. Stargazers around the world will get a chance over the next night to witness one of the best meteor showers of the year, and viewing conditions will be close to ideal.
The Geminid meteor shower lights up the night sky every December, and this year it will peak on Wednesday, December 13, and continue until the morning of December 14.
Since the moon is only partially full, the sky should be nice and dark, so weather permitting, all you’ll need to see Gemini is a blanket and a little patience.
Here’s what you need to know about the Geminid meteor shower and some other celestial events this month.
What is the Geminid meteor shower?
Meteor showers light up the sky when small remnants of asteroids or comets enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds. When these pieces of cosmic dust burn up and disintegrate, they produce brilliant trails of light.
Astronomers began recording Geminis in the mid-19th century, but their source was unknown at the time. It was later discovered that they were the result of debris left behind by the asteroid Phaethon 3200, unlike most meteor showers, which originate from comets. The particles that make up the Geminid meteor are denser than those found in comets, and appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini.
in A blog post on NASA’s websiteGeminid meteors are interesting because “most meteors appear colorless or white,” says Bill Cook, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. In contrast, Gemini stones appear more green in color. “They are beautiful meteorites!” says Cook.
What happens during the peak?
Gemini’s movement began in November and continues until December 24th. At its peak, The brightly lit shower can produce approximately 120 meteors per hour at a rate of 22 miles per second.
What is the best time to watch?
For best viewing, get out as early as 9pm and 10pm ET on December 13 if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. The number of meteors is supposed to increase every hour after that time, reaching its peak between midnight and morning twilight.
If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, Geminis appear at midnight at a rate of one-fourth the northern rate.
The good news is that the showers occur the day after the new moon, making the sky nice and dark. Assuming the weather cooperates, this would make for a great view.
What else happens in December?
December is a big month in the sky, which also offers great views of the moon and planets.
On December 17, you will be able to see the crescent moon directly below Saturn in the southwest during the first few hours after sunset. According to NASA. With a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to see Saturn and the Moon in the same view, and perhaps even Titan, the second largest moon in our solar system.
Asteroid Vesta will also reach opposition this month, meaning it will be located directly on the opposite side of Earth from the sun. It is at its brightest and easiest to observe, but you may want to use binoculars or a small telescope to see it.
Of course, the winter solstice falls on December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere, when the Earth is tilted on its axis at its furthest point from the sun. It represents the longest night of the year.
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