It’s quite cloudy out there and while I think there’ll be some clearing overnight, spotting a shooting star from this year’s Geminid meteor shower might be a bit of a challenge. The Geminids are usually one of the two best meteor showers of the year, often beating out the Perseids of August...weather permitting.

So where do these shooting stars come from? The Geminid meteors are created by tiny pieces of rocky debris, often the size of large grains of sand.  These were left behind by an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon.  Over the centuries, these bits have spread all along the asteroid’s orbit to form moving “river of rubble” hundreds of millions of kilometers long.  Earth’s annual orbit around the Sun carries us through this stream of particles every mid-December.

The Geminids will radiate from the constellation Gemini; that means you should look to the ESE in the early morning hours of December 14.  Having said that, Geminids can appear anywhere in the sky. Small ones appear as tiny, quick streaks; occasional brighter ones may sail across the heavens for several seconds and leave a brief train of glowing smoke.

Under a clear, dark sky, you should be able to see at least one Geminid every minute.  The best time to view is from midnight to 4 am, but if you happen to see a break in the cloud cover this evening, have a look. You don’t have to worry about expensive equipment either; all you need to watch the meteors are your eyes.  Find a dark spot with an open view of the sky and no lights nearby.   Go out late in the evening, lie back, and gaze up into the stars.

The best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, probably straight up.

 

PS: Bundle up!  The wind will be strong and will serve up wind chill in the -10 to -15 degree range!

 

Happy Sky watching

Chief Meteorologist

Cindy Day