Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Get Ready for the Geminid Meteor Shower

Image Credit: Eliot Herman
Image Credit: Eliot Herman
 The Geminid meteor shower is about to reach its peak during the long, dark hours from Wednesday night (December 13) into the early dawn hours of Thursday morning (December 14). With a thin, waning crescent moon that won't rise until the predawn hours, this annual meteor shower will be as breathless, if not more. as the Perseids of August.
 Luckily, the Geminids are one of the few meteor showers that perform well before midnight, meaning a night will not have to be spent outdoors in the cold to catch the shower. By midnight, there may be as many as 100 to 120 Geminids per hour under an excellent dark sky. Sadly though, light pollution and tall obstructions will significantly lower these numbers.
 Unlike other meteor showers, Geminids are also slower and more graceful. These meteors plunge into Earth's atmosphere at about 127,500 km/h (79,200 mph). Compare these numbers to those of the Perseids - 214,400 km/h (133,200 mph) - and the Leonids - 260,700 km/h (162,000 mph). This slower speed is partly caused because Earth does not collide with the meteors directly. Instead, these meteors come from the sides. Furthermore, the Geminids are more tightly packed, meaning they take more time to burn up.

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