Of course, you will probably only see this many if you are under a light pollution free sky, with clear views all round, using proper observing
techniques (see below), and observing when the radiant is at the highest point
it can reach in the sky (ie the "zenith" which is the area of sky directly above you ). In the Northern hemisphere at mid-latitudes the radiant
rises above the horizon at around sunset and reaches it's highest point in the sky at around 2AM local time.
Unfortunately for observers in the Southern hemisphere, the radiant does not rise till after midnight (meteors can only be seen in the sky once the
radiant of that particular shower is above, or very close to the horizon), and does not climb as high in the sky, so rates there will never reach what
they do for Northern hemisphere based observers, although it can still put on a worthwhile show.
Since the peak is quite broad (click here for examples from previous years), the previous or post-peak nights can
also be very enjoyable, and if the weather is looking bad for the main night where you are, it's worth a look if you are determined to see some.
Don't forget you will probably see meteors belonging to other showers as well as
sporadic or random meteors not belonging to known meteor showers, which is especially high at this time of year in the early morning hours for
Northern hemisphere observers at this time of year. You can tell Geminids apart from other meteors since they always travel away from the Geminid
radiant/Gemini, and based on their speed compared to meteors of other showers.
The Geminids are seen every year when Earth crosses the orbit of asteroid 3200 Phaethon, and small particles of dust (mostly) ejected from the once
comet hit our atmosphere at tremendous speeds creating the bright streaks of light we call meteors.
At 35 km/s Geminid meteors are relatively slow compared to other meteors like the Leonids (71 km/s) and Perseids (64 km/s), and the characteristics of
the meteors are quite different to these two showers. Trains are less likely, and the colors are usually different for example. At the same time they
are a good target for photographers, since they move slowly and more photons can be captured by the sensor/film.
Geminids can be every bit as impressive as the other two showers mentioned above, and if this year is a strong year as predicted, it should be well
worth braving the cold if the sky is clear late on Sunday night/early on Monday morning.
Good luck, and wrap up well!
PS. One thing I neglected to mention, is that the Moon will be out of the way for the peak this year, which is always a bonus since when the moon is
above the horizon, it can significantly cut the number of meteors you'll see.
This great video covers almost everything, but I would argue on a few points that were mentioned:
1. It's usually better to be totally flat when observing meteors since you can catch meteors close to any horizon with your peripheral vision when
facing directly upwards.
2. If you live in a warm/tropical climate, you might get away with a blanket (or even less) to keep you warm, but I'd advise putting on multiple
layers of warm cloths, and jumping into a sleeping bag if you want to observe for any length of time if you live away from the equator. If you are too
warm (unlikely in most cases) then you can always remove a layer of cloths or two.
3. The camera exposure times he mentioned could be at the upper end of the scale if you have any light pollution at you're site and/or depending on
your equipment/settings/how you want your photo to appear. It's worth experimenting before hand, but if you are using fast lenses/high ISOs (which
you should be if you want to catch any meteors, although you may get lucky and catch a bright meteor anyway), exposures can be as short as 5 or 10
seconds. See links below for more info.
Yes, well spotted Alaskan Man. That should indeed be "Dec 13". I'll make sure it's corrected. Serves me right for copying and pasting it from
somewhere else without paying attention!
I agree. It makes a nice change not to have to wait till the end of the night in order to see good rates, although I should make a point of noting
that people should not make the mistake of going out there and thinking the show is over once it's past peak for their location.
It's normal for there to be an occasional lull in activity, but more often than not that is followed by a burst in activity.
superdebz - Sorry to hear that. Is it feasible to nip back home for the weekend and catch a train back to uni in the morning (where you could sleep),
and perhaps make it back in time for the afternoon?
Even if you can't, there is always the Quadrantids, which peaks on January 3/4, and
is also a fairly reliable and strong shower right now. This year the shower peaked at over 140 meteors
an hour, although in 2008 it wasn't quite as strong at only 80+ meteors an hour, but
that's still a pretty good show especially if you are at mid-northerly latitudes, where the radiant climbs directly overhead a couple of hours before
The Perseids which peak on Aug. 12/13 are also a good bet. Time to plan your Summer if
you have not already. Next year is likely to be a good year
That sounds great Alaskan Man. Just make sure you take into account the extra wind-chill and temperature drop with altitude. Going up a mountain
during the day time, is a whole different kettle of fish to being up there at night with a clear sky and when you are not moving around much.
It doesn't get too cold at my latitude (around 50 N), but even this time of year at sea-level, climbing into a sleeping bag, and having on at least 2
jackets + 3 more layers of warm clothing under that is just enough to keep me warm over the course of a night. That same combination about 25 degrees
latitude south and at 5000 feet altitude, and I was cold to the bone just a couple of hours into the night! I missed a good shower that night
because of that!
On the other hand, if you think you can handle it, the view from up there should be spectacular! You might at least want to have a backup plan if you
decide to come down. I would keep an eye out for alternate sites on the way up, but surely, just getting out of town should be enough, as long as the
horizon is not blocked too much by towering mountains?
The only other thing you need to avoid is being in a valley or low down, where mist/fog can collect, although I'm not sure if it's too cold where
you are for that to happen at this time of year?
thanks for the concern, but the one thing i know how to survive in is cold weather, me and my entire family spend a great deal of our time outside
(and its cold here most of the year), I'll be at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, with glaciers behind me, and an inlet on the other side, i should
have 360 degrees of viewing available, only problem i can for see is the it being cloudy, or if a cold snap comes threw.
there's no going up a mountain on a snow machine when its 30 below. haha.
enjoy your show, and hope for clear sky's.
p.s. any idea where the moon will be? hopefully there wont be to much light pollution from our lunar neighbor.
Glad to hear. Just making sure. Too many here might just take it for granted, but you obviously have some respect for the outdoors.
With any luck you can get above the clouds if it does cloud up.
Have you considered taking a camera? That would be an awesome photo-op (cloud or not), especially if you caught a Geminid as well
The moon is well out of the way this year, and it's a new moon (a gorgeous thin crescent), so when it does rise (around 7:50 AM local time @ 61 deg.
N) it won't interfere much, and the sun is right behind it anyway. That goes for where ever you are pretty much, although observers in the tropics
may find it a bit distracting just before dawn.
The weather is likely to be the biggest party pooper, as it always is at this time of year, so my best advice to everyone reading this would be to
keep a close eye on how things shape up in the coming week, and be ready to go to an alternate plan (if possible) at the last minute if the original
observing site looks like it might be clouded out. Try and keep your options open and be flexible at any rate.
I always manage to overlook the meteor-listening aspect, unless someone reminds me!
NASA has posted an article about this year's Geminids, and also predictions about the general strength of the shower in the years to come. It comes
as no surprise since Geminid rates have steadily been increasing over the years, that in the coming decades the strength of the shower could reach as
many as 200 per hour at peak in an average year.
More interestingly (for me at least), the "population index" (the proportion of small versus large meteoroids) that Earth is predicted to encounter
in the coming decades is expected to lean further towards the larger sized meteoroids, meaning that there is a tantalizing possibility of "showers if
fireballs" during future peaks! The Geminids are already one of the showers that is known for bright meteors and fireballs.
Originally posted by C.H.U.D.
...NASA has posted an article about this year's Geminids, and also predictions about the general strength of the shower in the years to come. It
comes as no surprise since Geminid rates have steadily been increasing over the years, that in the coming decades the strength of the shower could
reach as many as 200 per hour at peak in an average year....
I was reading an article about this on spaceweather.com.
The rate per hour has been steadily increasing since the first Geminids was reported almost 150 years ago. It seems that the denser parts of the
comet debris field that the Earth crosses (the debris field from where the meteors come) has been slowly moving more into the Earth's orbital path
for the past 150 years. Every year, it seems as if the density of the field is getting greater.
Perhaps not so much that the density is getting greater (although this can also happen due to to the resonant gravitational effects of Jupiter under
the right circumstances), but each time we orbit we pass though a different part of space, so encountering a different part of the debris field, and
also it seems, each time getting closer to the core where the density is greatest.
Over time, the general tendency is for meteoroids to spread out and become less dense (barring the exception noted above), and that is what we see
with an old meteor shower like the Geminids who's debris field has become intermingled to the point that we can't detect individual peaks.
In contrast, younger meteor showers like the Leonids have short/sharp peaks (on top of the "back-ground" rate) as Earth pases though discrete fields
(or "dust-trails") that have not had time to disperse much, and hence why we get outbursts and occasionally storms from showers like the Leonids.
I would not like to say that a storm (1000+ per hour) isn't possible from an old shower like the Geminids, but it seems unlikely from what I
Don't let that put anyone off watching them. The best meteor shower I ever observed was "only" around 250 per hour (I saw even less than that) for
most of the night during the Leonids in 98!
It'll be interesting to see what really happens over the coming years, and if the predictions are right. I'm sure there are at least a few surprises
left in the Geminids
Yes -- that's what I meant (but I suppose i wasn't clear )
As the years go by since 1862, the denser parts of the debris cloud from that comet "3200 Phaethon" have been steadily moving into the orbit of the
In 1862, it was perhaps just the sparse edge of the debris cloud. In the years since then, perhaps the "meat" of the debris cloud has moved in
Earth's way. I suppose there may be a year someday that the Geminids will reach its peak, and then slowly but steadily decline in activity over a
number of years as the cloud begins to move away from the Earth's path.
I have just seen a couple already,i was looking towards orions belt and 2 in the space of a minute.
Starting to get a tiny bit foggy here (uk) but depending where you are you may see some.I am going back for another look now because i dont fancy my
chances of seeing anything on the night when it peaks.Weather
It was foggy here too last night, but looking like there could be some clear weather for the next couple of nights. The rates should be significantly
better by Saturday night. Still pretty low right now.
I may check in once again tomorrow before I head off away from civilization. If not, good luck and see you all on the other side!
It's one day before peak viewing, but my daughter and I just saw a really long-lasting meteor here in north eastern Pennsylvania.
It was right before 5:30 PM on December 12, and was visible for approximately four seconds. It was moving NNE, and traced a path visible across at
least 1/2 of my sky. It "flamed out" prior to disappearing over the horizon, so it either burned up or was an "Earth Grazer (a meteor that dips
into the atmosphere then back out again without burning up completely).
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