Two meteor showers will grace the night sky in December, one of which is known to produce many bright shooting stars.
First on tap is the Geminid meteor shower, and it will be followed by a month-end meteor shower known as Ursids.
When to See the Geminid Meteor Shower
The annual Geminid meteor shower often produces 50 to 100 meteors per hour and even up to 120 per hour in dark locations during its peak period of activity.
Although this meteor shower began in late November and will last until Christmas Eve this year, the Geminids are expected to be at their best during the evening hours of Tuesday December 13 until the wee hours of Wednesday December 14. according to astronomy experts at EarthSky.org.
As the December moon will be around 75% full, it will likely be difficult to see the faintest meteors. But experts say the Geminids are known to produce bright, white meteors, so many should be visible this year.
While most meteor showers come from comets, the Geminids are actually small fragments of an asteroid, known as 3200 Phaethon. (Another asteroid-related meteor shower is the Quadrantids, which peaks in early January.)
The Geminids were named after the constellation Gemini, “because meteors seem to emerge from this constellation in the sky,” explains TimeAndDate.com.
When to see the Ursids meteor shower
The last meteor shower of 2022 will be the Ursid meteor shower, which will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere from December 17 to December 26 and will likely peak late at night on December 22 until the wee hours of the morning. December 23.
“Visibility should be good for the 2022 Ursid meteor shower,” says Space.com. “The sky will be devoid of moonlight, as the new moon will arrive on December 23.”
The Ursid meteor shower typically generates only five to ten shooting stars per hour, with the highest numbers found in the darkest places. However, from time to time, this meteor shower over-performs.
Viewing tips for meteor showers
As with any meteor shower, it is best to find a viewing location as far away from bright city lights or streetlights as possible. And be sure to bundle up and bring extra blankets if it’s cold in your area.
Give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to the dark sky.
Even though meteor showers get their name from the constellation they radiate from, astronomy experts say it’s best not to focus on these parts of the sky.
“You don’t want to look towards these constellations to see meteors, but all around the sky,” said Amie Gallagher, planetarium director at Raritan Valley Community College and secretary of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society.
“You don’t need to use a telescope or binoculars to watch a meteor shower,” Gallagher noted. “Just use your eyes and scan the sky.” She said the timing of your viewing also makes a difference in how many shooting stars you can spot.
“Meteor showers are best watched after midnight,” Gallagher said. “That’s when the part of Earth you’re on moves through the flow of debris in space left by the parent comet.”
However, with this year’s Geminid meteor shower, bright moonlight could interfere with visibility during late hours and after midnight. Because of this, says Gallagher, “you might have better luck looking for meteors in the evening, before the moon rises.”
In the New York area, the moon is expected to start rising around 9:30 p.m. on December 13 and around 10:30 p.m. on December 14, according to TimeAndDate.com.
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Len Melisurgo can be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.
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