Geminid Meteor Shower 2012 and the Night Sky

The shower could be the best of the year.


This is the time of year when many people tend to look up at the sky.

Even among those who do not regularly eye the night sky there are many Christians who look up when they think of the Star of Bethlehem, as described in the Bible's nativity story. 

Light in general, Christmas candle light and the Festival of Lights, at Hanukkah, have people thinking about brightness.

Local astronomer James Keating, who designed the sun circle at Preston Beach, has a few recommendations for people surveying the sky in the early morning hours.

James says look southeast about 30 minutes before sunrise to see Mercury, Venus and Saturn.

"Venus being the brightest in the middle, Saturn up to the right and Mercury down to the left of Venus," he said. "If you are not an earlier riser, you can see Jupiter rise in the East as the Sun sets. Also, about one hour after sunset in the southwest is Mars."

There are also meteors to be seen this month.

The Geminid meteor shower will peak the night of Dec. 13/14, but will be active from now through the 17th.

It could be the best meteor show of the year, according to Astronomy magazine.

Geminid meteors are relatively slow moving, and the shower has a broad peak,

offering an excellent show all night, the magazine states.

The Geminids are so named because if you trace all the meteor trails backward, they would converge within the boundaries of the constellation Gemini the Twins. This point, called the radiant, lies approximately 3° northwest of the 1st-magnitude star Castor.

James Keating tells us the best place to watch for meteors is anywhere the sky is dark.

Gazers should be prepared to sit for a while so a comfortable chair and warm clothing are a must in winter.

By the way, if you are wondering what a meteor is: It's the streak of light that we see when a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere. 

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch.


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