The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, still should be close to peak brightness into early Saturday morning (Dec. 15), though a lot will depend on if the skies are clear.
If you liked the Perseids meteor shower this past August, you should love this show. NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sitings occurring in the 1830s with rates of about 20 per hour.
Over the decades the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.
Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13 and 14, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world. Skies cooperating, this past evening was als
"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports. "Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14."
The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin -- its outer covering of ice -- after too many close encounters with the sun.
Joel Weisberg, Stark Professor of Physics and Astronomy and the Natural Sciences at Carleton College, told Patch you can get a good view by finding a good piece of land that doesn't have a lot of lights around.
“The darker the place the better,” he said.
He said not having a lot of trees around helps as well, and the later in the night your viewing time is the better the chance you have to see some action.
Getting away from the glow of the highways and the city lights will offer the best chance to get a good look of the shower.
Viewing for Roseville residents
In general, members of the Minnesota Astronomical Society (MAS) say that Roseville residents need to get out the city for such meteor gazing because of light pollution from the Twin Cities.
The MAS conducts its star parties at one of three locations:
- The Metcalf Nature Center near Afton (www.mnastro.org/sites/metcalf.htm),
- Baylor Regional Park, north of Norwood-Young America (www.mnastro.org/sites/baylor.htm) and
- Cherry Grove Observatory, southwest of Cannon Falls (www.mnastro.org/sites/cherrygrove.htm). Complete information about each site including directions and available facilities is available at www.mnastro.org/facilities.
Tips for watching from Earthsky.org:
The best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Dec. 14.
What to bring: You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.
Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time—and hope.
And if you're interested in taking a good look at the sky at any other time, Carleton College's Goodsell Observatory is open to the public the first Friday of each month.
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