Are you excited for the forthcoming year? Needless to say, YES..!, but before that, encounter some terrific meteor showers this month. The month hails the beginning of the strongest meteor shower of the year- the Geminids. Get ready for a two-week-long amusement. The Geminids meteor shower which occurs annually exhibits its extravaganza between 5th Dec-17th Dec and peaks around 13th-14th of the month. At its peak, around 120-130 meteors per hour can be seen. Having the new Moon around the peak, it wouldn’t be playing spoilsport, like last year.
The Geminids are seen when the Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a weird, rocky object, an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. The dust and pebbles burn up when they run into Earth’s atmosphere in a squall of “shooting stars”. Phaethon’s nature is debated. It is either a near-Earth asteroid, or an extinct comet, or a rock comet.
Most meteor showers are shed by comets when their orbits take them into the inner Solar System, but it’s different for the Geminids. The debris from this may be due to long rupture or collision event. Whatever happened back then must have been quite phenomenal. It has more mass than any other meteor shower, including the Perseids.
So, what to do this year to watch the Geminids?
It’s quite plain sailing. At its peak, the Moon, with a phase of 0.6%, nearly a new Moon, will let you enjoy the showers. Find the darkest place you can, away from the city lights and give your eyes some time to adapt to the dark and avoid using your smartphone, as it will mess up your night vision. As the night forge ahead, the shower rate will increase. If the constellation Gemini was at our zenith, we could have watched the entire sky and around 120-130 meteors per hour. For the stargazers, from the northern hemisphere, has an excellent field of vision compared to the stargazers in the southern hemisphere.
Bear in mind, that you are under perfectly dark skies to watch the showers. The Geminids are rich beautiful green fireballs. So give yourself an early Christmas treat by watching the celestial fireworks.
If you are observing the Geminids and lucky enough to take the snapshots, do tag us on our social media handles.
Hundreds, Thousands of stars,
Marching towards the Earth, from the Milky Way band;
Are they an Army,
To seize our homeland?
Hope, not so.