2022 Geminid Meteor Shower is active, ready to rain shooting stars

2022 Geminid Meteor Shower is active, ready to rain shooting stars

The twin meteor shower, usually the strongest meteor shower of the year, is now officially active in the night sky.

The Geminids can deliver over a hundred meteors an hour on peak nights. It’s also that rare shower where you don’t have to wake up at the dreadful hours before sunrise for the best viewing experience.

In 2022 the shower is active from November 19 to December 24, reaching its peak in the evening of December 13 until the following morning. The moon will be more than two-thirds full that night, which is a bit of a shame, but certainly not enough to deter sky-gazers from going outside to take a look. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you should start looking for Geminids later in the night, but luckily you’re summer and you need less warm layers than many observers over the equator are willing to bring.

The Gemini are the rare meteor showers that do not appear to be due to an active comet periodically visiting the inner solar system several years or more apart. Instead, the source appears to be asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which astronomers believe could be an extinct comet or a new type of object NASA has dubbed a “rock comet.”

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Whatever it is, the debris and debris that has detached from Phaethon over the years form dusty clouds denser than what most comets leave behind. This explains why the twins are consistently among the stronger annual showers. Every December we drift through the densest part of this cloud and hundreds or thousands of pebble-sized particles burn up as they collide with our upper atmosphere.

In order to have the best chance of catching as many Gemini as possible, the most important thing is to find an observation point that is free of light pollution and has a wide view of the sky that is hopefully cloudless. While it’s best to mark the main night on your calendar, at the moment it’s possible to catch a few meteors an hour, especially since other showers like the Leonids and Taurids are still active.

When the moon rises, you can try to get your bearings so that it’s as far behind you as possible.

Once you’ve found the ideal spot, sit back, relax and give your eyes time to adjust. Then just watch. Allow at least an hour for the entire experience, as there are always breaks in activity. On peak night you can see up to 150 meteors in an hour under ideal conditions.

Your best chance of seeing that many is probably around 2am, when the ray from which Gemini appears to radiate outward (towards the constellation of Gemini, hence the name) is highest in the sky. However, as mentioned, the radiant is above the horizon earlier in the evening, and these friendlier hours are also the best time to see a bright “earth stripe,” the nickname for a brilliant fireball that appears to flare spectacularly just above the horizon .

However you do it, be sure to dress appropriately and bring refreshments lest you be tempted to go back inside and ruin your night vision. Have fun discovering!

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