Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 12-13-12 Here Come the Geminids

Hey Space Placers

UPDATE: Tune in live to NASA to watch the shower live

Tonight (12-13-12), starting at 9 pm, from a dark sky site out in the countryside, you should be able to see 100-120 “shooting stars” or meteors, per hour. Even from the ‘burbs, skywatchers should see a few dozen meteors per hour, the key being finding an area free of bright lights to watch this annual sky show.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is a reliable performer that comes along at this time each year and with the Moon out of the night sky tonight, promises to be quite a sight to see from a dark sky location. The peak of the shower is tonight and tomorrow morning with a lesser number of meteors visible over the next few nights.

The Geminids are caused by dust that comes from what astronomers think may be an extinct comet, or maybe even a new category of solar system object - a “rock comet” 09dec_rockcomet/ . All other meteor showers are caused by comets and each year our planet in its orbit around the Sun encounters about a dozen of the these debris streams to create the meteor showers we see.

3200 Phaethon is the actual name of this meteor shower maker and it has perplexed astronomers since it was discovered in 1983. The Geminid Meteor Shower was first observed during the Civil War but it took the space age to solve the mystery of where the shower originated.

You do not need any equipment or training to watch the shower. Just find a good spot free of lights and trees and lie down or sit in a reclining chair so you can look up. The key is to stay warm and comfortable as the night goes on. 182385861.html

The point in the sky where the shower seems to radiate from is the constellation of Gemini the Twins and is visible in the East at 9 pm and will rise higher in the sky and migrate towards the West as the shower progresses. The greatest number of meteors per hour is expected after midnight into Friday morning just before dawn.

An unexpected bonus for this year’s Geminids is the possibility of a totally new meteor shower occurring at the same time. Astronomers think that a new cometary debris stream may have formed from a relatively new comet called Comet Wirtanen. Attempts will be made to confirm if there really is a new meteor shower but it is possible that there will be even more meteors in the sky
during the Geminids.

Enjoy this sky show with friends and family. Just make sure you stay warm and comfortable during the shower.
Geminid Meteor Shower 2012
The Geminids will radiate from the constellation Gemini, shown here at its highest point above the southwestern sky around 2am on December 14th. (The top of the diagram is zenith, the point of the sky directly overhead.) Click the image for a larger version.
Sky & Telescope

Sky Guy in VA

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