(ORDO NEWS) — Amateur astronomers from the Northern Hemisphere can see up to 70 meteors an hour tomorrow, Sunday, when the Geminid meteor shower peaks. Prospects for the best meteor shower this year are pretty good as there will be no moon in the sky to interfere with observations.
Meteors are small fragments of space rocks that burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. They move at a tremendous speed, which in the case of the Geminids is about 130,000 kilometers per hour. Friction in the upper atmosphere leads to rapid heating of the fragments, the air around them begins to glow brightly, and the particles are quickly destroyed. The resulting bright streak is what we see from Earth as a meteor or “shooting star.”
In addition to meteor showers, approximately 6 random meteors are seen every night from every point on the surface of our planet. However, throughout the year, the Earth’s orbit intersects with material left by comets, or in the case of the Geminids, the asteroid Phaethon. When the planet hits these dense debris streams, we see an increase in the number of meteors – the so-called meteor shower.
Geminid meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but their footprints converge to a single point (known as a radiant), lying in the direction of the constellation Gemini (Latin Gemini), therefore this stream is called Geminids. These meteors move rather slowly across the sky and can be intensely colored.
To observe this shower, one should look up to the sky after 22:00 GMT, when the radiant is high in the southeastern sky. It is best to observe a meteor shower from the countryside, from where the entire sky can be seen at a glance, but in urban settings you can see several spectacular meteors. If you cannot observe the Geminid meteor shower this weekend, you can do so in the following days, but its intensity will be reduced.
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