Clear skies tomorrow night

Posted by @ 6:12 pm on Wednesday 12th December, 2007.
Categories: Astrostuff, Weather

Well, that's the weather forecast for here. Couple that with an ideal phase of the moon, and we have good conditions for standing outside, freezing our nuts off, looking for Geminid meteors. Let's hope that the weather holds for this shower... last month it was looking good for observing the Leonid shower until a front moved in and gave us 48 hours of 8/8 cloud-cover and heavy rain.

Here's an extract from the IMO Meteor Shower Calendar 2007:

One of the finest, and probably the most reliable, of the major annual showers presently observable. This year, the waxing crescent Moon will set by mid-evening across the globe on December 14 (the actual moonset timing is progressively later the further south you are), giving mostly dark skies for all observers, especially those in the northern hemisphere. The Geminid radiant culminates around 2h local time, but well north of the equator it rises around sunset, and is at a usable elevation from the local evening hours onwards, while in the southern hemisphere, the radiant appears only around local midnight or so. Even from more southerly sites, this is a splendid stream of often bright, medium-speed meteors, a rewarding sight for all watchers, whatever method they employ.

Here's some good advice from NASA for those hardy souls who intend to venture forth to see the lightshow:

  • Geminids meteors can be seen anytime after 10 p.m. local time, when the constellation Gemini is well above the horizon, but the best time to look is during the early morning hours between about 2 a.m. and dawn. That's when the local sky is pointing directly into the Geminid meteor stream.
  • The radiant of the Geminid shower is located near Castor, one of the two bright stars in Gemini (the other bright star is Pollux). To find the constellation at 2:00 a.m., go outside and face south. Castor and Pollux will appear approximately 45 degrees* above the horizon. Earlier in the evening, from 10:00 p.m. until midnight, Gemini will be about 30 degrees* above the horizon in the southeast.
  • You won't need binoculars or a telescope, the naked eye is usually best for seeing meteors which often streak more than 45 degrees across the sky. The field of view of most binoculars and telescopes is simply too narrow for good meteor observations.
  • Experienced meteor observers suggest the following viewing strategy: Dress warmly, as the mid-December nights are likely to be cold in the Northern hemisphere. Bring a reclining chair, or spread a thick blanket over a flat spot of ground. Lie down and look up somewhat toward the south. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky, although their trails will tend to point back toward the radiant.

(* this depends on your latitude)

Theoretically, the peak rate (ZHR) is predicted to be 120 meteors per hour, so it should be a good show.

Hopefully I'll be allowed out to catch some of the display on camera.

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