Thursday, February 22, 2024

Victoria skywatchers should look up as Geminids peak Sunday to Monday

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Skywatchers are in for an annual treat as the Geminids meteor shower is set to peak Sunday and Monday over the Northern hemisphere.

NASA says that the Geminids, named for their appearance in the constellation Gemini, are widely recognized as the best annual meteor shower for stargazers.

The source of the shower is a rocky body called 3200 Phaethon. 3200 Phaethon is a unique source of a meteor shower, as it is an asteroid, made up of rock and metal.

Comets are usually the source of meteor showers, and are typically made of ice. Tails and meteor showers are produced by comets shedding chunks as they approach the sun in their orbit.

3200 Phaethon, however, sheds dust, which burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere and produces the meteor shower. Some scientists believe the asteroid may be the core of a former comet, after shedding its icy exterior.

Conditions will be especially ideal this year for observing the Geminids as the peak of the meteor shower will overlap with a nearly new moon, according to NASA.

The result will be a darker sky with no moonlight to wash out fainter meteors. Environment Canada is predicting showers on Sunday over Victoria, and a mix of sun and cloud on Monday.

Cleardarksky.com, a website offering predictions for astronomical viewing conditions, is predicting moderate cloud cover but decent seeing conditions Sunday night.

Those interested in seeing the meteor shower should try to get away from bright lights, lie on their back, and look up.

Allowing 30 minutes for vision to adjust to darkness is also recommended while avoiding looking at cell phone screens.

The Geminids will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere starting around 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time on December 13.

The peak is expected at 5 p.m. PST, but there will be plenty of streaks of light to see throughout the night.

Scientists predict that observers will be ale to see roughly 60 meteors per hour, or an average of one Geminid per minute.

For those who aren’t up for a trip outside, NASA will also be broadcasting a live stream of the meteor shower’s peak on December 13 and 14.

A meteor camera at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will be trained on the display from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. PST. The live stream will be available on the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page.

Tim Ford
Tim Ford
Digital staff writer with Victoria Buzz

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