Image Source: Space.com.
The nights of 12-14 December 2014 will see the height of the Geminid meteor shower, a brilliant display from an extinct comet, named for the son of the ancient Greek sun god. For a complete worldwide guide on watching these falling stars, go here.
A Geminid fireball over the Mojave Desert (2009) ©: Wally Pacholka. Image Source: AstroPics / TWAN via Scibuff.
To see the meteors, look for the easy-to-spot constellation of Orion. The constellation of the twins, Gemini, is nearby, to the left of Orion. The meteors appear to originate from Gemini. The shower is known for its slow moving meteors and exciting fireballs. Space.com: "If you have not seen a mighty Geminid fireball arcing gracefully across an expanse of sky, then you have not seen a meteor," note astronomers David Levy and Stephen Edberg." NASA:
Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini. ...
On Dec. 13, Cooke and a team of astronomers from Marshall Space Flight Center will host an overnight NASA web chat from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. CST, answering questions about the Geminid meteor shower. The Geminids are expected to peak just before dawn on Dec. 14, with a predicted peak rate of 100 to 120 meteors per hour.
To join the webchat on Dec. 13, log into the chat page at: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids_2014.html
A few minutes before the chat, a chat window will be active at the bottom of the page.
In addition, a Ustream feed from a telescope at Marshall will be available: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc
Even if you can't see the meteor display from your part of the world, you can watch them online. The online Slooh Community Observatory will host a live webcast of the Geminid meteor display on Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m. EST (0100 Dec. 14 GMT). You can also watch the Slooh webcast directly: http://live.slooh.com/. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke will also host a live Geminids webchat on Saturday night from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST (0400 to 0800 GMT), as well as a live webcast.Be ready to make a wish!
You can watch the webcasts of the Geminid shower live on Space.com, starting at 8 p.m. EST, courtesy of Slooh and NASA. The Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project will also host a Geminds webcast, beginning at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT).
Although the bright moon will be high in the sky by 11:30 p.m. local time Saturday (Dec. 13) (during the shower's peak), skywatchers can still catch a potentially incredible show before the moon creeps above the horizon, washing out the sky. Stargazers might be able to see an average of one or two Geminid meteors per minute Saturday before the moon rises.
By around 9 p.m., the constellation Gemini — the part of the sky where the meteors seem to emanate from — will have climbed more than one-third of the way up from the horizon. Meteor sightings should begin to really increase noticeably thereafter.
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