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Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Geminid Meteor Shower

The 2012 Geminid meteor shower will peak on the nights of December 13/14 and 14/15, with the nod being given to the former. Meteor numbers intensify as evening deepens into late night. The greatest numbers fall an hour or two after midnight (December 14 and 15) – when the meteor shower radiant point looms highest in the sky – as seen from around the globe. But you might see a Geminid meteor any time this week. That’s because it takes some weeks for Earth to ford this meteor stream in space.
In 2012, the new moon falls on December 13, guaranteeing dark nights for this year’s Geminid meteor shower. It doesn’t get much better than this for watching a major meteor shower! As a general rule, it’s either the August Perseids or the December Geminids that gives us the best meteor shower of the year.
Even from a mildly light-polluted town, you may see some meteors! Best direction to look? Like all meteors in annual showers, the meteors will appear in all parts of the sky. Find an open sky and – if possible – a sky sheltered from artificial lighting.
1. The Geminids are one of the year’s best annual meteor showers. On a dark, moonless night, the Geminids often produce 50 or more meteors per hour, or nearly a meteor a minute. In 2012, the new moon provides inky black skies for this’s year’s Geminid show. You might have to settle for a single bright meteor or two from inside a city – more, if you watch over several hours – streaking along in the glow of artificial lights.
2. Dark skies away from the glare of city lights are important, even on a moonlit night For optimum viewing, find a place to observe in the country.
3. The 2012 Geminid meteor shower will be better if you let your eyes adapt to the dark. Sometimes that takes as long as twenty minutes. So give yourself at least an hour of viewing time. The most Geminids usually fall in the wee hours after midnight, centered around 2 a.m. local time. That time hold true no matter your time zone.
4. If you were to track the Geminid meteors backwards on the sky’s dome, you’d find them streaming from a point in the sky within the boundaries of the constellation Gemini the Twins. Hence this shower’s name. The Geminid radiant point climbs over the eastern horizon around 7 p.m. local time for our mid-northern latitudes. The early rising time for the radiant point is why the Geminid shower is one of the few meteor showers worth watching in the evening hours. That’s good for people who aren’t night owls!

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