Geminids Meteor Shower 2022: The annual Geminids Meteor shower is peaking on the night between December 14 and December 15 this year. The Geminids produce approximately 100 to 150 meteors per hour for viewing, during peak activity and perfect weather conditions. However, this year, only 30 to 40 meteors will be visible per hour at the peak in the Northern Hemisphere, due to a Waning Gibbous Moon. The Waning Gibbous Moon is a phase of the Moon in which the Sun’s rays illuminate exactly 50 per cent of the lunar surface, and is also called a Half Moon. However, the Geminids are very bright, and hence, most regions of the world will be able to witness this spectacle.
The Geminids Meteor showers are one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, and owe their name to the Gemini constellation because they seem to emerge from this constellation in the sky.
When and how to watch the Geminids Meteor shower
According to a NASA statement, Bill Cooke, lead of the space agency’s Meteoroid Environments Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, has suggested that people view the Geminids Meteor shower by sitting in the shade of a house or tree while also maintaining a view of the open sky. This will alleviate the moonlight interference.
The best time to view the Geminids Meteor showers is between 2 am and 4 am, because the showers will be visible at the highest altitude above the horizon in degrees during that time, according to data provided by timeanddate.com.
One does not require any special equipment or skills to view the meteor showers, but only a clear sky. People should find a secluded spot, away from the city lights, and once they are at the venue, they should stare at the sky for 15 to 20 minutes in order to become used to the dark.
The celestial point in the sky from which meteors appear to emanate during a meteor shower is known as the radiant.
The meteor showers will last for most of the night. Therefore, people have multiple opportunities to witness the brilliant streaks of light in the night sky.
People can also watch the Geminids Meteor showers live online. Several YouTube channels are streaming the astronomical event live. Some channels include ‘Starry sky Live‘ and ‘Hong Kong Space Museum‘. The channel called Starry sky Live is streaming the Geminids Meteor showers from Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
More about the Geminids Meteor showers
Since the meteors of the Geminids Meteor showers appear to radiate from the Gemini constellation, the constellation is the radiant of these showers. Meteors close to the radiant have very short tails and are easily missed, according to Cooke. Therefore, observers should avoid looking at the Gemini constellation. However, people can trace the meteor backwards to the constellation Gemini to determine if they caught a Gemini, because other weaker showers occur at the same time.
In the Southern Hemisphere, Gemini does not appear very high above the horizon. As a result, viewers will see approximately 25 per cent of the rates seen in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that viewers in the Southern Hemisphere can see between seven to 10 meteors per hour.
While the Geminids will peak on the night between December 14 and 15, people can see the showers in the sky till December 17. On the night of December 17, people may spot one or two meteors.
Fragments and particles that burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, and usually originate from comets, are known as meteors. However, the Geminids meteor showers are not associated with a comet, but with an asteroid.
The shower originates from the debris of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. It was first discovered on October 11, 1983, using the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. According to NASA, Earth passes through Phaethon’s trail of debris every year, resulting in the Geminids shower. The asteroid orbits the Sun every 1.4 years.
The first asteroid to be associated with a meteor shower, Phaethon lacks an icy shell, which is the staple characteristic of a comet. However, some believe Phaethon to be a “dead comet”, which means that it once had an icy shell that melted away.
Since Phaethon passes very close to the Sun during its orbit, theoretically resulting in heating and cracking and creating debris and dust, some astronomers call it a “rock comet”. Therefore, the exact origins of Phaethon are still a mystery, but it is known that the asteroid is the Geminids’ parent body.
Though the Geminids travel 78,000 miles per hour (over 1,25,528 kilometres per hour), over 40 times faster than a speeding bullet, it is highly unlikely that meteors will reach the ground. This is because most meteors burn up at altitudes between 72 to 89 kilometres.