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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another Inclement Night for the Peak of the Geminids Meteor Shower

The Geminids meteor shower peaks on the night of December 13 and the early morning of December 14, 2013. Unfortunately, a 5 day storm rages in Israel, including the Negev, and a nearly full moon fills the sky with light until it sets around 3:38AM local time on the 14th. Meteor showers result when the earth plows through the orbit of an old comet, that leaves dust and rocks behind in its path as it orbits the sun. This debris enters the earth's atmosphere and burns up due to friction, resulting in the bright lights we commonly call "shooting stars" or "falling stars".

The radiant of the shower is in the constellation Gemini, hence it's name. The radiant is the point in the sky where the meteors appear to originate from, if you draw a line back along their path through the sky, although few actually begin to shine at that point. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, so you don't really have to know where the radiant is to enjoy the show. At its peak, over 50 meteors can be seen per hour. But most of them are dim, so a bright moon in the sky makes it difficult to observe them. And of course, a storm makes it impossible. The meteors can still be well seen a day or two before and after the peak, though, so perhaps we hall get a break in Israel.

The radiant of the Geminids meteor shower is near the bright star Castor. The Gemini pair should be easy to find since the very bright planet Jupiter is nearby.
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