Okay it is almost the end of 2015 so that isn’t much of a shock. But don’t get me wrong, the Geminids are pretty grand! These especially bright meteors are prolific so you are pretty much guaranteed to spot a couple on a clear night! This meteor shower grows in number every year so 2015 should be exciting. The Geminids tends to be undervalued… probably because watching meteors during a chilly season isn’t inviting, but don’t make the mistake of skipping out on this one. Anyways let’s get to the details!
WHEN is it?
The meteor shower goes from about December 4th through the 17th. But its peak is on December 13th and 14th so be sure to watch as close to those dates as possible. (Definitely the 14th if you live in Eastern Asia.) Now as far as when is the best time of night to watch… you are looking for when the constellation is highest in the sky which is around 2am. If you are not a night owl, you can try closer to 11pm/midnight; the constellation should be high enough in the sky for you to see some meteors.
WHERE should you look?
As you can tell by the name, Gemini is the constellation these are close to. The particular radiant point is out of Castor’s shoulder, but if you find the constellation that should be good enough. However, if you aren’t that familiar with the sky, don’t worry; you can use an app (like the one I suggested). Pick a star in the constellation and use the app to figure out where the constellation is. You can even figure out when it rises and sets. If you use the app I do, make sure you turn on sky object trajectories and use that as a guide for where the star (or constellation) will be and at what time. It should be on automatically, but in case it is not, it is the button on the upper right of the settings (as shown on the right). Also remember that it is always a good idea not to stare at the exact same constellation all night. Let your eyes wander; where you will see the meteor isn’t an exact science. Sometimes it is helpful to keep your eyes active by looking somewhere else and coming back. These meteors do stray pretty far from the constellation, but if you were to trace their streaks you would find they all originate from the point in Gemini.
WHAT are the meteors made of?
The shooting stars you see are actually not remnants of a comet like most meteor showers. These remnants are from an asteroid. 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid that crosses over Earth’s orbit and comes closer to the sun than typical asteroids do. Luckily we cross its path every December to see bits of its dust turn into a fire show.
Next on the Lineup: The Quadrantids January 4th