Sunday, December 13, 2009

Geminids Meteor Shower Tonight and Tomorrow

Geminids Meteor Shower Peaks December 13th and 14th 2009
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. [...]

I saw a bunch tonight, some were very large with long tails. The viewing should get better into the morning hours, but I have to go to work tomorrow.

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