Not just here but all over the Southern US. For those of you who do not live in my part of the country or the world, that is rare!
My rosemary doesn’t even seem to know it snowed!
The constellation Gemini is the radiant of the Geminid meteor shower, which means that it is the meteor shower’s point of origin. The Geminid meteors will appear to fall away from the constellation Gemini. Geminid meteors can be seen all night long because Gemini rises so early, and Gemini is at its highest point (offering optimal viewing) a little after midnight. Because the sun sets so early in December, the meteor shower is in full swing by 9 p.m.
Meteors occur when the Earth rushes through a stream of dust and debris left behind by a passing comet. When the bits strike the Earth’s upper atmosphere, friction with the air causes each particle to heat and burn up. We see the result as a meteor.
Interestingly, Geminid meteors didn’t seem to be associated with a comet until recently. The Geminid meteor shower was thought to be caused by an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, which was first detected by NASA in 1983. The odd part of this is that asteroids don’t disintegrate in the same way that comets do to produce meteor showers. Phaethon has therefore been reclassified as an extinct comet that has lost its outer covering. This helps explain why the Geminids are so bright. They’re little pieces of mostly rocky material which take longer to burn up as they fall into the atmosphere, whereas most meteor showers are caused by the softer, icier debris from comets.
The Geminid meteors also move more slowly than other meteors, such as the Perseids. The decrease in speed makes viewing much easier. The Geminid meteor shower is also relatively new. All other major meteor showers have been observed for centuries, but the Geminids were first observed in 1862 in Manchester, England. The Geminid meteor shower was at first very modest, but it now delivers one to two meteors a minute.
The best meteor showers occur when the Moon is absent or mostly absent. Check our Moon Phase Calendar to find out the phase of the Moon during this year’s Geminid meteor shower.
How about a few meteor shower viewing tips…
Geminids offer one of the best meteor showers of the year, and they are perfect for kids who can’t keep their eyes open until midnight when other meteor showers begin. For those who like to go to bed early, the meteor shower should start around 9 p.m. The viewing will be better as the night goes on, so maybe it’ll captivate you enough to become a temporary night owl!
Unfortunately, due to the December timing, the Geminids are sometimes clouded out by a snowstorm. Keep your fingers crossed that the skies stay clear, and check our long range weather forecast to plan ahead.
As with any meteor shower, it is best to find a place far away from man-made lights. This can be tough in December when you want to stay close to warm shelter, so try to find a friend who lives out in the country. Obviously, you’ll need to bundle up for the winter weather, but I recommend making yourself some hot chocolate and cuddling up for a cheap but spectacular date. Try getting into sleeping bags on a reclining chair to stay extra cozy.
So, get out and enjoy the Geminid Meteor shower. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the night of the 13th doesn’t bring another rare snow event or I might miss the show!