Geminids 2018: NASA explains origin of dazzling meteors
Each year there are two annual meteor showers, the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December. When these two celestial showers occur, hundreds of shooting stars light up the sky and are highlights of the year for stargazers. Now a New Moon will create the ideal viewing conditions, with up to 100 meteors per hour possible at the peak of the Geminids shower.
The Geminids are thought to be intensifying every year, and this year is no different.
On December 13 and 14, Sunday and Monday, the Geminids will reach its peak – raining down 70 meteors per hour.
As many as 100 meteors per hour could be seen at the very peak of the shower.
The Geminids this year occur alongside a New Moon, which according to astronomers will make for ideal viewing conditions.
Read More: Geminids meteor shower 2020: Watch shooting stars live
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New moons typically can’t be seen, giving the chance for meteors to be seen streaking across the night sky.
According to Royal Museums Greenwich, the shooting stars will appear multi-coloured – mostly white but with some yellow, red, green or even blue.
The reason for such a festive display is due to the presence of metals such as sodium and calcium, which appear in trace amounts.
These metals are what make the colours in fireworks.
Meteors are pieces of debris which enter Earth’s atmosphere up to 70 kilometres per second (156,586 mph).
The debris then vaporises, causing the streaks of light we call meteors.
Geminid meteors appear to come from the Gemini constellation, near the bright star of Castor.
Meteor showers are often named after the constellation from which they appear.
However, the real origin for the shooting starts is debris from asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
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This makes the Geminids a rare meteor shower, as it is one of the few to come from an asteroid and not a comet.
To watch the Geminid meteor shower, all you need is:
- a clear, dark sky – away from light pollution is the best
- warm clothes to be outside for a lengthy period
- knowing when and where to look
Those wanting to witness the Geminids should look skyward after 10pm GMT on Sunday.
There will be a high level of activity before 12am, so you don’t need to stay up late to catch the meteors.
You do not need a telescope or binoculars, as the shooting stars are visible with the naked eye.
Heading into the countryside away from light pollution will give the clearest view.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to see any, watching for shooting stars can be a lengthy process.
NASA has said those in the northern hemisphere can expect to see the most shooting stars after midnight and into the early morning hours.
If you miss the peak, you still may be able to see the Geminids as they are visible in the night sky until December 17.
And the final meteor shower of the year – the Ursids – will take place after the winter solstice from December 22 and 23
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