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Home » SCIENCE AND NATURE in VT » VERMONT (all topics) » The Annual Geminid Meteor Shower
The Geminid Meteor Shower
The Annual Geminid Meteor Shower

By Mark B. Oliver | December 13, 2010

The annual Geminid meteor shower which runs all week will offer up a peak performance tonight, December 13, 2010 and into tomorrow morning. Anyone in New England with clear skies will enjoy a spectacular show.

The Geminid meteor shower was first observed just over 150 years ago and seems to be intensifying each year.   For sky-watchers willing to brave frosty winter temperatures, more than a hundred meteors an hour may fall overnight.

A Stunning Geminid Meteor

Previous Geminid showers have been captured by amateur photographer’s across the globe, including this short but stunning video shot by Tom A. Warner of a bright Geminid fireball on the night of December 12, 2007.

“The quarter moon will obscure the first part of the show, but once it sets after midnight, the conditions should be ideal,” said Geza Gyuk, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.

“If you can’t stay up that late, then after 10PM is okay too, but the later the better.” No telescopes are required. Just go out, and look up; those near brightly lit areas will see fewer meteors.

Tonight’s frigid temperatures require serious bundling up. Dress warmer than you think you’ll need to, take a blanket or lawn chair to lie back on, and allow 15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.   If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have “dark adapted,” and your chosen site is probably dark enough.   Then just scan as much of the sky as possible. The meteors can appear anywhere.

The Big Dipper

“The Geminids have been slowly getting better over the past years, making it one of the best showers,” Gyuk said. “And it has become very reliable, so we can expect a fairly nice show.”

Geminid meteors appear to radiate from the shower’s namesake constellation, Gemini, the twins from Greek legend. Gemini will rise above the eastern horizon at about 9PM local time, so sky-watchers should face northeast to spot the meteors.

As New England is so far north in the Northern Hemisphere New Englanders will have an advantage, because that’s where Gemini will appear high in the night sky, making most of the shooting stars visible.

Dozens of shooting stars should be visible over the course of the entire week. But the main peak of activity will center on the early morning hours of December 14, between about 2AM and dawn.

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