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The Geminids meteor shower 2009 - Peaks on the 13th/14th

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posted on Dec, 4 2009 @ 09:36 AM
This year's Geminid meteor shower is due to peak in the early hours UT of the 14th December, and is expected to be an above average peak. The Geminids is well known for it's reliability, and most years will see prolonged peaks of 100+ meteors every hour. This year the rate is expected to reach around 140 per hour at 0510 UT Dec 14 (midnight EST, 9PM Dec 13 PST), and the timing favors places from all across the Americas eastwards to western Europe and western Africa.

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.

Click here to see a chart showing where the Geminid radiant is. Southern hemisphere residents click here for a chart.

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.

Related Links

2009 Geminids related articles
2009 Geminid Meteor Shower, Peak Dec 14 by "MeteorWayne"
Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower by Sean Welton

2009 predictions

Geminid shower info, history, and observations
Previous year's ZHR graphs

Last years Geminid meteor shower
The Geminids meteor shower 2008 (ATS)

Basic visual meteor shower observation techniques
How to Observe Meteor Showers
How to View Meteor Showers - How to "See More Meteors"

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.

Advanced visual meteor shower observation techniques

Photographing meteors

General information

Organizations and mailing lists

[edit on 4-12-2009 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Dec, 4 2009 @ 11:42 AM

Originally posted by C.H.U.D.
9PM Nov 13 PST)

I'm am gonna assume you meant Dec 13.

thank you for posting this! very awesome, i hope we have clear skys here, it will be very nice being able to see meteors at 8pm rather then 3am.


posted on Dec, 4 2009 @ 11:51 AM
I always enjoy a good meteor shower. Thanks! Flagged...
Leonids, Geminids, Perseids, etc.

Good thread.

posted on Dec, 4 2009 @ 12:51 PM
why do i always have to be at uni during these things -_-"
god damn city light pollution its not fairrrr

posted on Dec, 4 2009 @ 04:10 PM
reply to post by superdebz

reply to post by Alaskan Man

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.

reply to post by havok

havok - Good on ya! I personally can't understand why more people don't take advantage of an awesome spectacle like a meteor shower like the Gems etc., even when it's free!

reply to post by superdebz

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 dawn.

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

Good luck guys, and thanks for the replies/flags.

posted on Dec, 5 2009 @ 12:39 AM
Thanks for the heads up.

Love a good meteor shower.

posted on Dec, 5 2009 @ 06:37 PM
alright so me, my girlfriend, a friend and his girl are all gonna ride snow machines (mobiles) up a near by mountain, i hope the view is great, i am really looking forward to the 13th!

posted on Dec, 5 2009 @ 09:39 PM
reply to post by nerbot

You're welcome nerbot.

reply to post by Alaskan Man

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?

Hope the weather stays clear for everybody!

Edit to add some more external links covering this story:
Geminid meteor shower to peak on 14th December 2009
Geminid Meteor Shower 2009 Uk: Where and When to Watch..
2009 Geminid Meteor Shower to reappear December 7

[edit on 5-12-2009 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Dec, 5 2009 @ 10:15 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

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.

posted on Dec, 5 2009 @ 11:55 PM
reply to post by Alaskan Man

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.

posted on Dec, 9 2009 @ 07:27 AM
You can also listen to for the meteor echoes that uses a US Air Force Space Surveillance Radar thats scanning the skies above Texas.

posted on Dec, 9 2009 @ 11:08 AM
Thanks for that link pazcat

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.

(visit the link for the full news article)


You can also follow the build up of this year's shower by going to the IMO's Geminids 2009 Live ZHR graph which is now up and running. Rates right now are still below 10 Geminids per hour.

posted on Dec, 9 2009 @ 02:09 PM

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

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.

posted on Dec, 9 2009 @ 04:48 PM
link is where I found it too

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 understand.

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

posted on Dec, 9 2009 @ 05:09 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

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 Earth.

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.

[edit on 12/9/2009 by Soylent Green Is People]

posted on Dec, 10 2009 @ 05:47 PM
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

[edit on 10-12-2009 by tracey ace]

posted on Dec, 11 2009 @ 10:18 AM
Not bad going tracey.

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!

posted on Dec, 11 2009 @ 05:05 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

Thanks for the info S+F

After watching "The Day of the Triffids" in 1981, meteor shower have never been the same for me LOL
Edit to remove link

[edit on 11/12/2009 by TheDon]

posted on Dec, 11 2009 @ 07:51 PM
reply to post by TheDon

You're welcome.

That film probably set meteor observing back a couple of decades

I noticed a cool link over at earlier thats worth checking out. NASA have a live all-sky webcam that you can watch for Geminids with at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The weather here is rapidly going down hill (as it always seems to before a major shower lol), but I remain hopeful that there might be some gaps in the cloud at peak.

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 06:36 PM
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).

[edit on 12/12/2009 by Soylent Green Is People]

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