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Christmas Meteor Shower – Germinids Event is here

Christmas Meteor Shower – Germinids Event is here

The Christmas meteor shower, the Geminids, are THE meteor shower to see in the southern hemisphere.

Instead of getting at best 10 to 30 meteors per hour like most meteor showers, you’ll get to see anywhere from 100 to 120 meteors per hour with the Geminids.

The Geminids which were first discovered in 1862 and occur because The Earth is travelling through the left over material from the tail of an asteroid with the lovely name of 3200 Phaethon, this asteroid is considered a rock comet which is an asteroid the shares some characteristics with a comet like a tail or surface jets.

Related: The 2018 Geminids Christmas Meteor Shower will coincide with a rare Christmas Comet encounter close to Earth.

The meteor shower appears to come from the Gemini constellation with the streaks being caused by tiny dust particulars and meteors hitting our atmosphere at tremendous speed and burning up due to the friction.

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Now at this stage you’re probably thinking that’s great, but am I going to have to get up at an ungodly hour in the early morning to view these?

Well you’re in luck as the constellation Gemini after which the meteor shower is named after appears in our sky around 10 at night so it’s best to go out and watch for them after midnight when Gemini is a higher in the sky as the shower gets better throughout the night.

Download ‘Fireballs in the Sky’ app to find where to look!

geminids-stellarium
Figure 3 Where the Geminids appear to comes from

This year should be a great year to view them as The Moon will have already set, meaning we’ll have a nice clear dark sky to view even the faintest of the meteors. The best way to see the meteor shower is to find a location well away from street lights. You can still see these meteors from the middle of Perth but you’ll see a reduced number of them because of the huge amount of light pollution.

You should sit or lay down outside for at least 15 to 20 minutes to let your eyes adjust to the dark sky. While your eyes will start to adjust straight away, you’ll need this time to allow your eyes to fully adjust.

Instead of taking your phone out with you, I suggest a Milo or Coffee as the bright light from the screen will destroy your night vision and it might be cold outside. If you need a torch it’s best to have a red light torch on hand. The red light does the least amount of damage to your night vision, but still allows you to clearly see the surrounding area around you.

If you don’t have one, you can make one by placing red cellophane over the torches light and using a rubber band to hold it in place.

meteor-colours-explained

When looking at Gemini try to look about 30 to 45 degrees left or right of the constellation. This is because the meteors aren’t necessary coming from the Gemini constellation, but if you trace the meteor streaks that occur back to their radiant point it’s the Gemini constellation.

To measure the 30 to 45 degrees checkout the diagram below so you can measure with your hand on the night.

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Figure 5 Measure angles and degrees by hand

If you want to help researchers and become a citizen scientist in the process, you can download the Fireballs in the Sky app and report your sightings as the steaks happen. The app has tutorials and the data you record will help researches from our very own Curtin University.

Need something to do while on holidays in January we’re running night tours most night in January so there are plenty of chances to come up and experience our amazing night sky through our wide range of telescopes. We’re also putting on a New Year Eve night tour this year.

The tour will finish by 10:30pm giving you plenty of time to drive to one of the Perth Hills many lookouts and take in all the fireworks from around Perth at the stroke of midnight and bring in the New Year.

This article first appeared on So Perth in 2015.

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