Tips to becoming a backyard astronomer
The Geminid meteor shower is set to dazzle in the night sky throughout December.
It will reach its peak around dinner time on Dec. 13 into the early hours of Dec. 14.
This is your chance to see 120 meteors per hour, shooting across the night sky.
Heartland Weekend talked with Hubble Telescope Scientists to find out what exactly you’ll be able to see.
“A meteor shower is basically a burst of light streaking through the night sky,” Dr. Jennifer Wiseman said. “They’re really pieces of asteroids or comets that are hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and getting very hot as they come through the atmosphere.”
This is set to be the best meteor shower this year, thanks to our moon.
Meteors will appear all over the night sky.
For the best show, though, turn towards the constellation Gemini between midnight and 4 a.m.
What is the Geminid Meteor Shower:
The Geminid shower is one of the most prolific and reliable meteor showers of the year.
It’s active every December when Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a weird, rocky object named 3200 Phaethon. The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth’s atmosphere in a flurry of “shooting stars.”
Tips for becoming a backyard astronomer:
Heartland Weekend asked Jennifer Wiseman for some advice on becoming a backyard astronomer.
- Just look up. You can see a ton with your naked eye. That list includes the Geminid Meteor Shower, Earth’s Moon, stars and more.
- Most important: a dark sky. This might be the most important tip. It is possible to catch a glimpse of a meteor or two from the suburbs. But to experience a true meteor shower, avoid city lights.
- Bring binoculars. You can see even more. Like the detail on our moon or a glimpse of Jupiter and its inner moons.
- Know your constellations. The Geminid meteors appear to come from the constellation Gemini. You can easily identify any of the constellations lighting up the night sky using apps like Sky Guide for Apple and Sky Map for Android.
- Dress appropriately. It can be chilly in the hours before dawn when you’re skywatching. So we suggest making sure you dress in layers. You might also bring a blanket and lawn chair to make yourself comfortable.
Word to the wise: Geminids can be seen on nights before and after the Dec. 14 peak, although they will appear less frequently. If you can’t make it outside, you can watch the meteor shower live. CLICK HERE to see NASA’s Geminid meteor shower broadcast.