The Geminid Meteor Shower: The World Looks to the Skies

geminid-meteor-showerThe futuristic sounding year 2010 is fast approaching so it is nice to reflect upon the fact that, despite all technological advancement the human race has achieved through the ages, one of the major events this week involves looking to the stars: this week sees the return of the Geminids Meteor Shower.

The Geminids Meteor Shower is a now yearly experience that one can witness on a clear night about a fortnight into December.

The shower is actually the remnants of  asteroid 3200 Phaethon, pieces of which hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, causing low bright meteors in around the Gemini region of the night sky – hence the Geminids title.

Last night was expected to be the best night of 2009 in the USA, while in western Europe and further East to India and China, those with a clear night sky can expect the shower to be best tonight, Monday 14th December 2009, during the darkest hours of the night.

So popular is the experience of stargazing – or, rather, meteor gazing – that the phrase “Geminids Meteor Shower” made it into the top 30 most popular internet searches on Google overnight, and many people are now mentioning the event on middle-class micro-blogging website Twitter.

Forget the Nintendo Wii, this year’s must have pre-Christmas experience is an evening in front of the night sky.

In This Story: Geminids

The Geminids are a prolific meteor shower caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock comet” orbit. This would make the Geminids, together with the Quadrantids, the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet. The meteors from this shower are slow moving, can be seen in December and usually peak around December 6–14, with the date of highest intensity being the morning of December 14. The shower is thought to be intensifying every year and recent showers have seen 120–160 meteors per hour under optimal conditions, generally around 02:00 to 03:00 local time. Geminids were first observed in 1862, much more recently than other showers such as the Perseids (36 AD) and Leonids (902 AD). Source: Wikipedia

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