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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Geminids Meteor Shower is a Smash Hit

This year's Geminid meteor shower, peaking on the night of December 13-14, did not disappoint. It had to be one of the best in recent years, and one of the best I have ever seen. I was out with a small group that night from 6:00 until about 11:00 PM. One guest counted 87 meteors in about 90 minutes, and many of these were very bright meteors or fireballs that lit the entire sky. We frequently saw many simultaneous shooters across the sky. In fact we saw so many that my guests began to fear that I would charge them for the night on a per meteor basis! Meteor showers result from the earth plowing into the orbit of an old comet which leaves behind dust and debris in its path after its passage. The Geminids however originate from an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon, rather than a comet.

As I was looking forward to an incredible night, the skies clouded over at 11:00 PM, ending the show. Such has been our fate for much of this winter. However, if you missed the Geminids this year, don't despair. A nearly equal meteor shower, the Quadrantids, peaks early in the new year on the evening of January 3 through the early morning of January 4. This shower has a very sharp and brief peak, usually early on the morning of January 4, so the exact time you are out will make a considerable difference in how intense the shower appears The Quadrantids originate from  the minor planet 2003 EH1, which in turn may be related to the comet C/1490 Y1  that was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean astronomers some 500 years ago.

I will, of course, be out that night, so send email or call if you would like to join us in Mitzpe Ramon. Dress warmly; it's been cold at night.

And remember - Keep on Lookin' Up!

A Geminid meteor shoots past the constellation of Taurus with Jupiter shining nearby.

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