June 3, 2020

AstroEvent of the Week: December 8th-14th: the Geminid Meteors.

December is meteor shower month. Hot on the heels of last month’s Taurid and Leonids comes the biggest and one of the most predictable producers of the year; the Geminid meteor shower. Radiating from the constellation of Gemini the twins, this shower typically produces up to 100-120 meteors per hour.

The Geminids are a product of asteroid 3200 Phaethon which is a notable and rare circumstance in of itself. Is Phaethon a “retired” comet? The expected peak this year is December 13th 20:00 UT, which favors the latitudes of Eastern Asia.  The Geminds are active most of mid-month, but it’s worth it to watch early, as a Moon approaching full on December 12th will begin to hamper efforts. As always, early morning efforts are always better rewarded. Think of driving at night in a snowstorm. You get that cool, retro-Star Trek warp-drive effect in your high beams. Meteor showers work that way, only you (and the Earth) are the car, and the meteors are the snow. Anyway, good luck, stay warm, (we’ll be watching from Hudson, Florida this year, away from the snow!) and be sure to share your results!

The Astro-word of the week is nadir. This is the imaginary point directly under your feet, the opposite of the zenith, directly overhead. It doesn’t turn up too often in astronomy, although the “Nadireal Hourly Rate” of a meteor shower might be fun to contemplate. You do hear astronauts use the term occasionally, as they can actually see their very own personal nadir out in open space!


  1. Beth says:

    I saw a beautiful meteor drop last evening [december 8th] around 8:30 pm eastern standard time; towards the East. I thought it was a plane crashing on fire it was so large. It was an amazing sight

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