The Geminid meteor shower is a favorite of sky watchers every December because it can produce up to 120 sightings per hour. This year’s show runs from December 7-17, peaking overnight on the 13th-14th. Though the moonlight will wash out some of the meteors this year, the brightest ones will still be visible and it is set to be a pretty good event. The Geminids are named for the fact that they look like they are originating from the constellation Gemini.
Though many meteor showers are remnants of comets, the Geminids are the product of a small asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. It is suspected that the asteroid was involved in a collision that produced a rocky, dusty trail that burns up in Earth’s atmosphere as the orbits intersect every year. The source of the meteors is actually puzzling to astronomers, because the large amount of debris in the shower is rather inordinate for the small size of the parent body.
The best time to head outside and view the meteor shower will be a few hours before midnight local time, but if you aren’t able to head outside then or don’t live in an area where the shower will be visible, be sure to tune into the event covered by the Slooh Community Observatory on Saturday, December 13. The webcast will be hosted by Slooh Astronomer Bob Berman, Will Gater, and Eric Edelman, who will explain all of the bizarre attributes of this annual shower.
“The Geminids are very strange because they hit Earth sideways. It is the difference between being in a car and slamming head on into somebody as opposed to someone backing into you sideways, perhaps coming out of a driveway and crunching into you gently. These meteors hit us gently. While Summer’s Perseids strike Earth at 37 miles per second, that’s amazingly fast, and the Leonids are even a little bit faster, hitting us at just over 40 miles a second, these Geminids hit us at only 22 miles a second,” Berman said in a press release.
Slooh’s show will present observations from the Institute of Astrophysics in the Canary Islands as well as from the Prescott Observatory in Arizona. In addition to watching fantastic view of the meteors, the viewers will also be able to “listen” to the meteors based on their ionization sounds! Be sure to use #SloohGeminids in social media to join the conversation!
The Gemini Meteor Shower can be viewed anywhere north of Antartica. The broadcast begins at 8:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, December 13. You can tune in on Slooh’s website or join us right here: