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Friday, December 6, 2019

Geminid Meteor Shower peaks Thursday, Friday, Saturday December 12-14

The Geminid Meteor Shower is usually the best of the year, although it falls out during the cold winter months which makes it less popular than summer's Pereseid meteor Shower. This year it also falls just after the night of the full moon on December 12 whose bright light makes all but the brightest Geminid members less visible. Peak numbers are usually around 88/hour but this year because of the bright moon the numbers will be more around 20/hour or less. Nonetheless, this shower is famous for bright, colorful, exploding fireballs so it is worth going out to look for.

The Geminid meteors originate from asteroid 3200 Phaeton as debris from it burns up from the heat of friction  in the earth's atmosphere. If you draw a line back from the path of the meteors they appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, hence the name. But they don't necessarily start there, and the best way to observe them is to just lie down on your back and look straight up at the sky. No optical aid is required or even desirable to see meteors. Just use your eyes.

The "radiant" of the Geminid meteors in the constellation Gemini. while the meteors appear to "radiate" of diverge from that point in the sky they don't necessarily start there and can be seen anywhere in the sky, Draw a line back from the path of the meteors and the point in the sky at which they converge is the radiant. Not all meteors will be shower members. If their path doesn't converge to the radiant they are just randoms or sporadic meteors that are seen every night,

The radiant of the shower in the constellation Gemini rises around 9:00pm local time in the northeast, two bright, nearly identical stars that are hard to miss. That's the best time to start watching. Peak hours are after 2:00am local time, but the nearly full moon interferes with seeing all but the brightest members of the shower. There are usually meteors from the shower that begin to become visible about a week before and a week after the shower. A dark sky is best for viewing meteor showers, although the nearly full moon will make all skies bright.

Come join us for a meteor shower star tour every night except Friday, December 13.


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