Geminids Meteor Shower
If you enjoy watching falling stars, you may be in for a treat over the next few weeks assuming skies are clear. The Geminid Meteor shower should be visible from about December 6-19, with the peak viewing period occurring on the evening of Dec 13 and morning of the 14th.
During the earlier and later portions of the observation period there may be an average of one meteor per hour. But the Geminids are known for being one of the best meteor showers of the year, and predictions for the peak viewing period for this year’s show range from 40 to perhaps 120 meteors per hour. The Geminids are also known to occasionally produce meteor “storms,” which would obviously be fun to see.
The Geminids are so named because they seem to originate from within the constellation Gemini. The best viewing is expected to be in the east after midnight.
There is an interesting story associated with the origin of the Geminids.
Unlike most meteor showers which are produced by debris from comets, the Geminids are produced by an asteroid (3200 Phaethon).
The Geminid meteor shower is reported to have started rather suddenly in the mid 1800’s. Research on the shower was subsequently conducted to document the strength, orbit, and size of the meteor shower, as well as the origin. What puzzled scientists was that no known comet could have been the source of the meteor shower, and by the mid 1900’s it became apparent that there must be some other source of the display.
It was not until 1983 that astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in California confirmed that the origin of the meteor shower was, in fact, an asteroid. That was the first scientifically proven connection between an asteroid and a meteor shower.
Make an effort to be on the lookout for meteors over the next couple weeks, and take some time to do some serious observing the evening of the 13th or early on the 14th. Then give some consideration to all those astronomers that are helping us better understand what goes on in that big beautiful sky above us.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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