Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Meteor Showers feed
The Geminid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 13 December 2016. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from 7 December to 16 December.
Annual meteor showers arise when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind by comets and asteroids. As pebble-sized pieces of debris collide with the Earth, they burn up at an altitude of around 70 to 100 km, appearing as shooting stars.
By determining the speed and direction at which the meteors impact the Earth, it is possible to work out the path of the stream through the Solar System and identify the body responsible for creating it. The parent body responsible for creating the Geminid shower is 3200 Phaethon.
The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 100 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula.
From Ashburn (click to change), the radiant of the shower will appear 52° above your eastern horizon at midnight. This means you may be able to see around 79 meteors per hour, since the radiant will be high in the sky, maximising the chance of seeing meteors.
The radiant of the Geminid meteor shower is at around right ascension 07h20m, declination 33°N, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above.
The Moon will be 15 days old at the time of peak activity, and being so close to Full Moon will severely limit the observations that will be possible.
To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.
|The sky on 13 December 2016|
14 days old
All times shown in EST.
The Handbook of the British Astronomical Association.
© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.