April 21, 2018

Geminid meteor shower set to dazzle sky after midnight

15 December 2017, 02:24 | Antonio Miles

Viewing forecast

Viewing forecast

This year is expected to be the best meteor shower ever.

Tonight, Earth will pass through a stream of gravelly asteroid debris creating Geminid meteor shower.

Considered by sky watchers as one the finest meteor showers in China's skies, the Geminids meteor shower occurs annually between Dec 4 to 17. Last year, a super moon greatly interfered with the viewing of this event because the moonlight was so bright it overshadowed any meteors. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Thursday, Dec. 14th, when the constellation Gemini is high overhead. Of course, the more away from light pollution you are, the better chance you will see more. It should be an excellent meteor shower as the Geminids are usually prolific, bright and slow-moving, and this year there won't be a bright moon to obscure a lot of them.

Just because the Geminid meteor shower happens every year doesn't mean its parent asteroid is nearby. This year, the asteroid will be closest to Earth the night of Saturday, Dec. 16, when it zips by at a distance of about 6.4 million miles (10.3 million kilometers), which is almost 30 times farther away from Earth as the moon is. This meteor shower, in particular, was named after the constellation Gemini because the meteors mainly seem to be coming from there.

This almost 200-year-old meteor shower is associated with the near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

The debris and grit is burned up as it runs into the earth's atmosphere to produce the meteor or "shooting star".

That being said, it can be hard to predict exactly where in the sky meteors will be seen. Don't forget to take a telescope with you for a better view.

Viewers will get a particularly good look tonight thanks to a dark sky.

Boyle says binoculars are not required to watch the showers, but he says they may be helpful to catch a glimpse of the smoke trails or "trains" that linger in the sky.

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