The debris of a comet burning in atmosphere offers us a meteor shower in the following nights. Thousands of tiny parts left behind by the comet will fall into our atmosphere at a speed of 35 to 40 kilometers per second. No bigger than a few grains of sand, wen burning in the sky they become visible to the naked eye.
This meteor shower is called the ‘Geminids’ as they appear from the direction of the Gemini constellation. Every year, the Geminids are visible from the Northern Hemisphere starting at the end of the first week of December, with a rate of visibility of about one meteor per hour and it usually reaches its peak a week later when the observation rate increases to more than 80 meteors per hour.
3200 Phaeton was recognized as a comet on 1983. Until then, it was believed that it is an asteroid orbiting the Sun.
The Geminids are visible every year in the same period since this is the time when the Earth, orbiting around the Sun, intersects the comet’s trail of debris.
However, if you want to watch the meteors shower, this year you have the best chances of seeing a wonderful show. The Geminids will be more visible than usual since there will be a new moon, which means that it won’t shine bright on the sky, stealing the light produced by burning meteors.
The best time to watch the meteor shower is after local midnight but they can also be visible starting a couple of hours earlier than that.
A few rules have to be fallowed for the best experience of watching the Geminids. First, you have to find the darkest area possible, like a field or a park. After getting into a darker area you have to let your eyes adapt to the dark so don’t get frustrated if you won’t see many meteors in the first 20 minutes or so.
You might think that using a telescope will help you see the meteor shower better but in this case you are wrong. Telescopes only see a small area of the sky while meteors appear randomly, so the wider the area of visible sky, the more chances you have of seeing more meteors. If you really want to use an instrument, binoculars might be better.
A good idea would also be to search for a map of the sky on the internet or get an app on your smartphone which will help you identify the Gemini constellation. That is the direction in which you should keep looking for the rest of the night.
Image source: pixabay
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