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Geminid Meteor Shower Promises a Spectacular Show

Now playing overhead: The dramatic Geminid Meteor Shower, which many astronomers agree is the best meteor shower of the year.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is forecast to peak late Thursday/early Friday Dec. 13-14, between around 10 p.m. and sunrise, at your local time, in North America. If you can’t stay up that late, not to worry — astronomers tell us that some meteors should be visible as soon as darkness hits. In addition, the shower lasts for days before and after the peak date, and there have already been reports from around the world of people spotting many spectacular fireball-like celestial streaks in just minutes.

This year’s shower coincides with a new moon, so the sky should be extra dark for excellent viewing. NASA scientists, like Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, predict a fantastic show, aided by the possible appearance of a second, newly discovered meteor shower.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is really the skeleton of an extinct comet. The Earth passes through this particular debris stream each December, and is said to originate near the constellation Gemini.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Geminids.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according Cooke of

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Geminids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center:

Watch the 2008 Geminid Meteor Shower

First Meteor Shower of 2012: The Quadrantids

The year’s first meteor shower may be a great one! The Quadrantids are set to peak on January 4th, 2:30 am ET. Astronomers are calling for clear skies and a dramatic show in much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the pre-dawn hours.

Can’t watch it at the exact time? Don’t worry — astronomers tell us that meteor showers can last for hours before and after the peak date.

This is a good article about the Quadrantids from Huffington Post.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Quadrantids are a relatively recent discovery (1825).

How to watch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Quadrantids.

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Quadrantids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

Look Up! It’s the Geminid Meteor Shower

Now playing overhead: The dramatic Geminid Meteor Shower, which many astronomers agree is the best meteor shower of the year.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is forecast to peak late Tuesday/early Wednesday Dec. 13-14, between around 10 p.m. and sunrise, at your local time, in North America. If you can’t stay up that late, not to worry — astronomers tell us that some meteors should be visible as soon as darkness hits. In addition, the shower lasts for days before and after the peak date, and there have already been reports from around the world of people spotting spectacular fireball-like celestial streaks.

Despite this year’s nearly full moon, NASA scientists, like Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, still predict a good show. “Observers with clear skies could see as many as 40 Geminids per hour,” Cooke says .  “Our all-sky network of meteor cameras has captured several early Geminid fireballs.  They were so bright, we could see them despite the moonlight.”

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is really the skeleton of an extinct comet. The Earth passes through this particular debris stream each December, and is said to originate near the constellation Gemini.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can. This time of year, clouds can obscure the Geminids on the peak day, as can the moon, which will be nearly full.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Geminids.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according Cooke of

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Geminids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center:

Watch the 2008 Geminid Meteor Shower

Look up! It’s the Geminid Meteor Shower and a Lunar Eclipse

Now playing overhead: The dramatic Geminid Meteor Shower, which many astronomers agree is the best meteor shower of the year. Following that,  stargazers could keep their necks craned for 2010′s only complete lunar eclipse, which coincides with Winter Solstice December 21.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is forecast to peak late Mon./early Tues. Dec. 13-14, between around midnight and sunrise, in North America. If you can’t stay up that late, not to worry — astronomers tell us that some meteors should be visible as soon as darkness hits. In addition, the shower lasts for days before and after the peak date, and there have already been reports from around the world of people spotting spectacular fireball-like celestial streaks.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is really the skeleton of an extinct comet. The Earth passes through this particular debris stream each December, and is said to originate near the constellation Gemini.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

Good news! The Geminids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.

Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can. This time of year, clouds can obscure the Geminids on the peak day, as can the moon, which will be in its first quarter.

A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Geminids.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according to Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Geminids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

After the Geminids, night-sky gazers can look forward to a full lunar eclipse that will coincide with the winter solstice Dec. 21.

What is a Lunar Eclipse?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through a point in its orbit when the Earth is directly between it and the sun, and the moon is in the shadow of the Earth.

In the Western Hemisphere, the eclipse will “officially” begin on Dec. 21 at 12:29 a.m. EST (9:29 p.m. PST on Dec. 20). As with the Geminids, the best way to see the eclipse is to hope for clear weather, go outside, and look up. It takes about 45 minutes to notice any changes in the moon’s appearance as the shadow moves slowly across it. The lunar eclipse should be visible in North and South America, the northern and western part of Europe, and a small part of northeast Asia. A complete lunar eclipse won’t happen again in North America until 2014.

Space.com has more great information about the lunar eclipse.


Last — and Perhaps Best — Meteor Shower of the Year: The Geminids

The last big sky show of the year, indeed the decade, will occur tonight. And some astronomers say it may be the best of the year.

Other showers, like the Perseids, tend to get more attention, perhaps because they occur in warm weather for many viewers, but the Geminid show might persuade even reluctant sky watchers to bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), head outside where you can see a patch of night sky, and look up.

This shower has been getting stronger every year it’s been recorded, going back the the 1860s. It could be “an amazing annual display”, according to Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

Scientists believe that the Geminids actually come from an asteroid, called 3200 Phaethon, which is itself an extinct comet. (Most meteor showers come from comets.) Comets create meteor showers by flying close to the sun, which causes the comet’s dirty ice to evaporate and that, in turn, causes comet dust to spew into space. When the comet dust enters the earth’s atmosphere, we see it as meteor flashes. Because asteroids don’t usually produce dust, it is thought that 3200 Phaethon is really the skeleton of an ancient comet.

People around the globe have already been reporting seeing good meteor showers. The Geminids are due to peak Sunday, December 13, at about Midnight, Eastern Standard Time. Any time between about 9 p.m. one’s local time and one’s local sunrise the morning of Monday, December 14, should offer good viewing, and there are showers predicted even a couple of days on either end of that.

At far Southern latitudes, the viewing window will be a little smaller. This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about just where and when to find the Geminids in your local night sky.

You don’t need any special equipment to view the Geminids. In fact, the naked eye is best for meteor viewing, as it allows you to follow a big swath of the sky. As mentioned before, get comfortable. You do need clear skies, and an area with as little light as possible.

If the weather is clear, skies should be pretty dark, because the moon is just two days shy of new.

This movie of the 2008 Geminids comes from a space camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center. You can also see the movie here.

The Leonid Meteor Shower is Coming

Sky fans: An exciting meteor shower is headed our way. Anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere may be in for a good old-fashioned sky show, just by looking up.

The Leonids are debris from a wandering comet that appear as shooting stars each November. They often provide one of the best shows of the year, if the skies are clear and the moon is not full.

This year promises a stellar show, if clear skies hold, because the moon is almost new.

Peak Leonid viewing should occur early Tuesday, November 17, around 1 a.m. PST. There are expected to be fine shows for hours, and even days before and after that.

Just before dawn is generally a good time to catch some shooting stars, especially because Leonids generate from the constellation Leo, which is visible in the east before dawn.

You won’t need any special equipment to see the Leonids. The naked eye is actually best. If possible, get to a high spot, away from city lights. A backyard or front porch can work just as well. Just be sure to give your eyes some time to adjust to the dark. So bundle up, get a comfortable chair, and hope for a good show!

For more info: Visit this NASA web site.

Photo: AP File Photo/ Leonids over Joshua Tree National Park.

The Perseids are Coming!

The annual Perseid meteor shower is coming our way this week. Anyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere may be in for a good old-fashioned sky show, just by looking up.

The Perseids are debris from a wandering comet that appear as shooting stars each August. (Records of this light show go back to 36 A.D., though the Swift-Tuttle Comet was discovered much later.) They often provide one of the best shows of the year, if the skies are clear and the moon is not full.

This year, they should be best on Wednesday, August 12, before dawn and after sunset. Tuesday night before 11 p.m. is another good time to look for shooting stars because the moon won’t rise until 11.

You won’t need any special equipment to see the Perseids. The naked eye is actually best. Just be sure to give your eyes some time to adjust to the dark. And hope for a good show!

This article in the San Francisco Chronicle offers more information about the Perseids, along with some good viewing tips and a sky map.

600px-Meteor_burst
Meteor Burst Photo by NASA Ames Research Center/S. Molau & P. Jenniskens
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