Just wanted to post a reminder note about the Geminid Meteor Shower that is peaking this weekend. Given the holiday craziness, end of year craziness, and general Life Craziness, I know how quickly things can become lost in the….what was I writing this email about again? Oh, right, meteor shower.
So, the Gemini Meteor Shower has been going on for more than a week now, but the peak is this Saturday evening/Sunday morning. If the skies will be clear for you, I encourage you to go out and check it out. It normally averages 100-120 or so meteors/hour at peak, but two years ago it jumped up over 200/hour. Don’t know what this year will bring, but even at 100/hour, your odds of seeing some are pretty good.
The only drawback for those living in the northern hemisphere is that it’s getting on winter, and the weather isn’t always the best (and when it is, it’s usually too cold for most folks to stand around for long staring at the star-studded sky). But, if you’ve got clear skies forecasted for this Saturday night, and want to check out a good meteor shower, this is an ideal one a few reasons.
Firstly, the radiant (the spot in the sky the meteors would appear to “come from” if you were to trace them out on a star chart/sky map as you saw them) is in the constellation Gemini (hence the meteor shower name), and it rises about 9pm. This means you’ll have a pretty good chance of seeing some meteors in the pre-midnight hours than having to wait until 1am or later to catch the show (that said, it will be best time is between 1a and 3a, but that’s only if you are die-hard enough to want to stay out all night 😉 ). Note: all times here are local to you! Doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you’ll have a shot at seeing meteors from this shower. Just apply the times noted as if they were local to you (though one caveat: given that the radiant is in Gemini, northern hemisphere observers will have a better time of it in seeing more meteors than southern hemisphere observers – but you all in the southern hemi can still see it!)
Secondly, this meteor shower, under ideal conditions (totally dark sky, completely unobstructed horizons all around), typically yield anywhere from 80-150 (or more, in 2011 and 2012 it got upwards of 200+) meteors per hour. I.e., the chances are pretty damned good you’ll see some if you wait around for 10-15 minutes.
The Moon. This year the shower coincides with the Last Quarter Moon, so there will be some extraneous light to wash out the sky. But the Geminids are so bright that even a quarter moon won’t make it a hopeless endeavour to get out and see the show.
+ Dress WARMLY! I’ve mentioned it before, but can’t stress this enough. Check the temperature forecasts for the night, and dress as if it will be 10-15 degrees *colder*! Standing, sitting, laying around watching meteor showers is not a very body heat-generating experience. You will cool off quickly. Wear warm socks, gloves, and a hat, in addition to whatever else you might normally wear.
+ Be comfortable. From where ever you plan to watch the show (your backyard, your hot tub*, a park, etc), either bring a chair you can relax in and watch the sky, or a tarp and blanket (and maybe a sleeping pad and sleeping bag; sleeping bag good for chair use as well).
* – if you’re watching from a hot tub, I probably don’t need to say anything about your being comfortable *or* warm. 😉
+ Having hot chocolate is nice (unless you’re a coffee drinker or like hot tea).
+ Binoculars, telescopes, etc. You don’t need them, and you really don’t want them for watching for shooting stars. Meteors travel across long distances of the sky compared to the field of view that binoculars or telescopes afford you. If you’re meteor hunting, you don’t want to distract yourself with closing down your field of view to a tiny part of the sky (unless you see something unusual and want to check it out – like a star cluster, a dust cloud, a galaxy, a planet*, etc)
* – Jupiter will be high in the sky most of the night, the brightest star-like object up there, and Saturn will be rising to the east about an hour before sunrise
+ Cameras and photographing meteors. Meteors last anywhere from a couple/few seconds to a short flash in the sky. To capture a photo of one, you’ll need a tripod and a camera capable of doing long exposures and having reasonably high ISO settings (1600-3200 or so). If you want to know more about this, email me separately. 🙂
Some links for you to read up on:
EarthSky (there may be a video ad that plays when this comes up, but you can mute and delete it)
http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteorsThis is a webpage from two years ago. I only include it as it has some good graphics illustrating the ‘radiant’ I mentioned earlier, for both the Northern and Southern hemisphere views:
And if that’s not enough for you, if you google “2014 Geminid Meteor Shower” you’ll get a host of other pages to browse through.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiIXcMEs5jAAnyway, for all those who can get out, good luck, and good hunting!
PS: please feel free to share this as you see fit.