Geminids meteor shower set to light up the night skies

Night sky watchers can expect a celestial display of shooting stars Wednesday night as Earth passes through a cloud of cometary dust.

The Geminids meteor shower, which returns every December, is expected to peak during the night of December 14 and will be visible until the early morning of December 15.

Up to 150 meteors are expected to be visible per hour, although the bright moon could make them more difficult to spot.

Anna Gammon-Ross, astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, told the PA news agency: ‘The peak here in the UK will be during the night of 14-15 December when up to 150 meteors will be visible per hour. “.

He said the meteors will be visible in the eastern part of the sky around 6 p.m., but appear across the sky later in the night.

Ms Gammon-Ross added: ‘Unfortunately, the waning gibbous moon will make it more difficult to see meteors on peak night this year.

“Gibbous phases are when the near side of the moon is half lit by the Sun, meaning it will appear very bright in our skies.

“This will make it difficult to see any other nearby celestial objects.”

The Geminids come from a rocky asteroid called 3200 Phaethon with a comet-like orbit and were first observed in 1862.

The meteors, small bits of interplanetary debris, appear to be radiating near the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini.

Friction with the upper atmosphere heats the incoming debris, causing the air around it to glow.

This leads to streaks of light which are also known as shooting stars.

According to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, the Geminids are unusual in that they can be multicolored: mainly white, some yellow, and some green, red and blue.

These colors are partly caused by the presence of trace metals such as sodium and calcium, the same effect used to make fireworks colourful, Royal Observatory experts say.

The Geminids also have a slower closing speed than many other comets as they enter Earth’s atmosphere at an angle, traveling at about 79,200 miles per hour.

By comparison, the Perseids are approaching Earth at 133,200 miles per hour and the Leonids at 162,000 miles per hour.

Ms Gammon-Ross said the best way to minimize its impact is to look for meteors before moonrise, around 10pm in the UK on peak night.

He added: “For the best chance of spotting the Geminids, find a dark area of ​​clear sky and allow around 20 minutes to allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

“It may also be advisable to lie down because you may be looking up for a long time.”

The showers will continue to be visible until December 20th.

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