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    Geminids to Put on a Show

    By travel
    12/06/2013, 5:59:39 AM

    One of the most significant meteor showers of the year, called the Geminids, will be at its peak on the night of Dec. 13 into the morning of Dec. 14. It is called the Geminids because the “radiant,” the point from which the shooting stars emanate, is located within the constellation Gemini. Gemini rises above the eastern horizon around 8 p.m. on Dec. 13 and should be far enough above the horizon by 9 p.m. to easily see any meteors from the Geminid meteor shower. These times and directions are reasonably accurate for any time zone observing standard time in the Northern Hemisphere.

    To find Gemini, take a look at the star map we have annotated. We have highlighted three of the more well-known constellations, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and Orion, which can be used to orient you towards Gemini. One advantage in finding Gemini is that Jupiter will be the brightest object in that region of the sky on Dec. 13. In fact, Jupiter will be found in Gemini, so if you keep your eye on Jupiter, you’ll almost certainly see Geminid meteors.


    At its peak, the Geminid meteor shower could produce shooting stars at an impressive rate of over ONE PER MINUTE! It won’t be surprising if you see some very bright fireballs, properly called “bolides,” which is the more precise scientific term for a meteor that explodes in the atmosphere. By around 2 a.m., Gemini will be nearly directly overhead, continuing then towards the western horizon. Because the moon is very bright on Dec. 13, the best time to view may be before sunrise on Saturday, Dec. 14, after the moon has set, from about 4:30 until the light of dawn. However, do not let the moon deter you from going out to see the Geminids, because even with a bright moon, you will still see plenty of Geminid meteors. The Geminid meteor shower is actually already underway and will continue until a couple days past its Dec. 13-14 peak, so if you have clear skies, it is worth checking them out now, rather than just waiting for the peak.

    Get out there, and enjoy the show!

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