The Geminids meteor showers peak in the early morning hours of December 14. According to Dr. Tony Phillips, Production Editor for Science@NASA, the show is predicted to peak at 12:10 am EST on December 14 and may reach 140 meteors per hour. The showers can be observed for hours or days surrounding the peak time. Meteors radiate from the constellation of Gemini earning them the name of Geminids.
The Geminid Meteor Showers have consistently increased in intensity over recent decades and are expected to continue that trend. Not only has the rate of meteors increased, the size and brightness has shown a steady increase, as well. Some predictions indicate that the Geminids may increase as much as 20% to 50% within the next few decades resulting in excess of 200 meteors an hour.
Meteor showers occur when Earth travels through ice and rocky debris left behind from comets on its yearly cycle around the sun. In the case of the Geminids, Earth travels through the trail of debris left behind from 3200 Phaethon, once believed to an asteroid. 3200 Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet that has left behind a skeleton of debris as it deteriorates from it is many passes near the sun.
Earth passes through Phaethon’s path of debris each December. Jupiter’s gravity has pulled the debris closer to Earth’s orbit causing the earth to plunge deeper into the debris stream with each yearly pass, resulting in more visible meteors each year.
According to the International Meteor Association, viewers should expect bright slow moving meteors that may exhibit flashes of color. The new moon promises unobstructed viewing, if weather cooperates and skies are clear. Those in the Northern Hemisphere should view in the hours after midnight for the best show.
Amateur Astronomers and observers can report their observations to the International Meteor Association via the form on their site. Instructions and background information can be found on the site to assist you in completing the form.
View from a dark area away from the intrusion of bright lights. If you are able to see all the stars in the big dipper, the area is dark enough to observe the Geminid meteor shower. Those in the Northern Hemisphere should have a clear view of the Eastern sky for maximum viewing. Those in the Southern Hemisphere may view the Geminids in the North to Northeastern sky, but the show will be more subdued, as the showers will not be high enough in the sky for maximum viewing in southern hemisphere.
Star Date Online:2009. Meteor Showers and Viewing Tips
Dr. Tony Phillips.Science@NASA. The 2009 Meteor Showers.
Meteor Showers Online. Observing the Geminids.
International Meteor Association. Geminids 2009.
International Meteor Association. Electronic Visual Report Form.