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Saturday, 13 December 2008 23:19

Geminid meteor shower competes with full Moon in 2008

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Between December 14 and 17, 2008, the Geminid meteor shower will be lighting up the night sky. However, the full Moon may make it more difficult to see the meteors.


The meteors of Geminid appear to come out of the constellation Gemini. They have been observed for only 150 years, making them a fairly new group of meteors for viewing from Earth.

The Geminids originate from its parent asteroid (or dormant or extinct comet) named 3200 Phaethon.

Astronomers Simon Green and John Davies discovered 3200 Pheathon (1983 TB) while scanning images from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), which were taken on October 11, 1983.

The green-to-blue and sometimes-yellowish-appearing meteors will appear in the east to southeast portion of the Northern Hemisphere sky, near the twin stars (Castor and Pollux) of the Gemini constellation.

They will race, generally, from the east/southeast direction to the west/northwest across the sky--but can really be seen going in any direction.

The Geminids will be difficult to see from the Southern Hemisphere, but some locations will be able to see them.

Castor will be the fainter of the two Gemini twin stars. The bright twin stars are considered the radiant point of the Geminid meteor shower.

The Moon will be interfering with this year's observation of the Geminids. Please read on.




The full Moon will be above the Geminid meteor shower radiant (where the meters will appear to originate) on Saturday night and Sunday morning. See their positions at “Geminids 2008.”

Binoculars or telescopes are not normally needed to see the meteors flying cross a clear sky at a medium speed of about 22 miles (35 kilometers) per hour. However, if the sky appears hazy, then such aids may be necessary to see them.

In addition, with the full Moon in the night sky in 2008, binoculars or other such viewing aids will be needed to see most of the meteors.

For best results start looking at them after 10:00 p.m. your local time (although it is possible to see some of them after dusk.)

Its peak number of meteors is expected around midnight on the night of Saturday, December 13, 2008.

In past recent years, the numbers have recently been counted from 120 to 160 meteors per hour at its peak.

However, with a full Moon in the night sky in 2008, only but the brightest of the meteors will be seen with the naked eye.

The meteor shower will continue from about midnight to dawn on Sunday, December 14, and continue on Monday night, December 15 through Wednesday night, December 17.

More news about the Geminids 2008 meteor shower is found at Visual Astronomy’s website “Geminid Meteor Shower 2008.”

Additional information, along with a calendar on annual meteor events, is found at the International Meteor Organization’s website.



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