Geminid Meteor Shower 13-14 Dec ’12

As you may have noticed already I am a big fan of space, the universe and all that stuff, so tonight I will be looking up at the stars – providing that there isn’t any cloud in the way – attempting to catch a glimpse of some rocks burning up in our atmosphere and possibly taking pictures, which I’ll post if they’re decent.

The Geminid meteor shower will be visible all over the world in all timezones on the 13th (tonight) and early morning on the the 14th, peaking at roughly 2 – 3 am in all timezones, although there may well be more meteors a day or two before and after these dates. In previous years with ideal conditions the annual Geminid shower has produced 120 – 160 meteors per hour, tonight is different though, as Russian scientist Mikhail Maslov has predicted, with the use of computer simulation, that there will also be a secondary meteor shower that will coincide with the already expected meteor shower. The second shower will be caused by debris left behind by Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which will will vaporise on contact with Earth’s atmosphere, potentially adding a further 30 meteors per hour on top of the hundreds produced by the Geminids, making it a very interesting event indeed.

Geminid Meteor Shower
© Wally Pacholka, via

If you want to, it is possible to tell the different meteor showers apart by the apparent point in the sky that they materialise from. The Geminids will appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, from which they gain their name, which will be visible in the east. The radiant point for the new shower however will be the constellation Piscies, which will likely give the new shower the name Piscids, if indeed it does occur. Piscies will be visible in the west when darkness falls and will proceed to descend as Gemini rises in the east, meaning that the meteors will be traveling in different directions across the sky, and Mikhail Maslov also predicts that the Piscids will be travelling slower than the Geminids, giving another possible way to discern the different showers.

The Piscids will be visible in early evening as darkness falls, with the Pisces constellation eventually setting, whereas the Geminids will be more prominent later in the night/early morning local time anywhere in the world, when the constellation Gemini is highest in the sky. It was also predicted that the Earth could pass through the Comet Wirtanen debris trail four times between the 10th and 14th of December, so meteors may also visible on these dates. This will be the last meteor shower of 2012, so it seems fitting that it could be an interesting one.

Geminid Meteor Shower Dec
© Michael Menefee, via
Geminid Meteor Shower '11
© Luis Argerich, via

Read/see more about the Comet Wirtanen on NASA’s Near Earth Orbit Program.
Images via