Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13, 2010

I am not an avid sky watcher, but I do like to enjoy sitting in the hot tub at night watching the stars and smoking a big fat stogie.

Over the past few nights, I have been noticing more and more shooting stars, and to my surprise tonight was spectacular. So impressive that I had to look it up just to see what was going on. In the hour that I saw out there, I saw dozens and dozens of shooting stars. Some were quite spectacular, like this one, that trailed sparkling dust across half the sky, and then broke up into several pieces.

Now some were just mere specs, and if you blinked you would miss them, but for the most part, the trails went a quarter of the night sky. Very bright, and moving very fast.

If you have never seen a meteor shower, I would urge you to look up when the next one is supposed to happen, and take the time to check it out. I would compare the excitement to watching a good fireworks display, only the show keeps on going all night long.

So what is the Geminids Meteor Shower?

I would have to say that this is one of the best meteor showers of the year. I do not get the chance to often watch them, but this one never seems to disappoint.

This shower gets its name “Geminids” because the star trails seem to come from the constellation Gemini. For us observers in the  in the Northern Hemisphere these meteors start becoming visible as early as December 6, when one meteor every hour or so could be visible. I personally counted about 3-4 an hour this year. During the next week, rates increase until a peak of 50-80 meteors per hour is attained on the night of December 13/14. Tonight as I recall, there were at least 50-60 in the hour that I was watching around 3 AM CST. The last of the Geminids meteors can be seen on December 18, when an observer might see a rate of one every hour or so.

If you see some falling stars, keep in mind that there are other, weaker meteor showers going on at the same time as this one from Gemini. To know if you indeed are seeing a Geminids meteor, imagine a line backwards and trace it across the sky, and if you end up in Gemini, then its probably a Geminid Meteor! If you are not sure where Gemini is in the sky, the following charts will help you find it from the Northern Hemisphere.

If you missed this one, dont worry, you will have more chances to see some great star trails.

2011 Meteor Showers

Name Date of Peak
Quadrantids night of January 3
Lyrids nights of April 21/22
Eta Aquarids night of May 5,6,7
Perseids night of August 11,12
Orionids night of October 21
Leonids night of November 17
Geminids night of December 13

NOTES These are approximate times for the Lower 48 states; actual shower times can vary. Bright moonlight makes it difficult to see all but the brightest meteors.

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