|Posted: 13 Dec 2012 12:40 AM PST|
The final meteor shower of the year is now taking place and if you are lucky to have clear skies this is already quite a show. Across much of the northeast and back into the northern Rockies skies will be clear and perfect for viewing. There is a “new moon” tonight and this means no moonlight to spoil the show. While you will be able to see a few shooting stars after sunset the display really gets going after 10PM and will peak a couple of hours after midnight. However, you will definitely see some shooting stars well before peak. I circled in blue areas of the country that will have the best viewing tonight on the map below. I’d love to hear your experience on the meteor shower or on this blog. Please follow and chat with me on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos atGrowingWisdom.com
A brand new meteor shower possible
Astronomers are particularly excited about tonight’s Geminid meteor shower as there could be even more shooting stars added to the mix. The earth may pass through comet Wirtanen in the next few days. Most meteor showers are caused when the earth passes through the debris of a comet. As of yet, the Earth hasn’t run into comet Wirtanen’s debris field. However, tonight may be different. If the earth passes through the debris it would result in a new shower of meteors that would combine with the Geminid’s. That means we could be looking at 60-100 meteors per hour. The additional meteors would be coming from the constellation Picses (The Fish), so the shower could be called the Piscids.
The Geminids will appear to emanate from the constellation Gemini (The Twins) and are a result of the Earth hurling through debris shed by the huge, enigmatic asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This makes this meteor shower unusual because it isn’t caused by comet particles. Remember, the most important thing about viewing the event is get away from as much light as possible. The darker your surrounding the better your viewing will be and the more meteors you will see.
If you are looking up tonight you might spot Jupiter as well. Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the sky rising after sunset to the southeast and remaining in the sky most of the night. If you want to see Mars look to the southwestern sky at sunset as the reddish object will be that planet setting for the night. If you are up super early you can catch Venus rising in the eastern sky about 2 hours before the sun.