The Backyard Astronomer: Geminids meteor shower brings “slow” shooting stars and a few fireballs

Just one of the most fascinating celestial activities is a meteor shower.

Anyone, from time to time, has noticed meteors—a.k.a. “shooting stars”—while having a stroll or strolling the doggy at evening. These swift, bright trails of light-weight in the night sky are triggered by bits of particles from the generation of the photo voltaic system or even place junk these types of as nuts and bolts from aged rockets and deployed satellites.

Whilst these are unpredictable sightings that can in some cases startle the observer, there are lots of known and really predictable meteor showers all over the yr. All that is necessary to perspective them are clear, dim skies.

On the evening of December 13 (and the early early morning of December 14), one of the ideal displays will participate in out in the skies above. This is the annual Geminids meteor shower, so named due to the fact its radiant, or origin, seems to be a certain stage in the constellation Gemini.

This stage is found just earlier mentioned the star Castor, which is found 51 gentle-years away and is the mythological mortal twin warrior of Pollux.

The shower is acknowledged to generate a reliable 120 swish meteors for each hour. That is two per moment, and there will even be a couple of dazzling fireballs (extremely shiny meteors that past extended than typical and seem to even go away a trail in the sky).

Geminids meteor

The meteors’ “sluggish” velocity of 36 kilometres per 2nd will include to the attractiveness of the sky show. By contrast, the Perseid meteors in August streak by the ambiance at 2 times that speed.

And even though the moon will be about 77 p.c lit, we need to nevertheless see a higher variety of meteors vaporize in the atmosphere.

The Geminids are not developed by a comet, as in other showers, but by the five-kilometre huge asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This object could be a lifeless comet that, over time, has misplaced its chemical and water ices.

A comet loses a person to two percent of its risky surface each and every time it rounds the solar. Photo voltaic radiation triggers the comet’s gases to glow and its floor to launch sand and grit, which can sort an legendary dust “tail”.

One particular of the best occasions to check out the Geminids will be just after midnight (PST), when the moon has set and the shower is at its peak. But if that is far too late for you, whenever earlier—with a little darkness, luck, and patience—would be superior to witness a number of unforgettable vivid meteors.

Clear skies.