Saturday, December 09, 2006

The annual meteor shower in the constellation of Gemini, mentioned previously on this blog, is due to begin tomorrow evening. They will peak on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, at which you may expect to see up to 60 meteors per hour. There will be less interference from moonlight than occurred with the Perseids this year. The Moon will enter its last quarter on Tuesday, and be no more than a fat waning crescent at the time of the peak.
The meteors will appear to radiate from an area about half the size of the Moon near the star of Castor in Gemini. This star will begin to rise in the east-northeast quadrant of the sky at about the time twilight comes to an end. This is the best time to catch a sight of 'Earth-Grazers'. These are meteors with long, bright trails that emanate from a point near to or on the horizon. Gemini will be about 1/3rd of the way up from the horizon by 9:00 PM, and by 2:00 AM it will be at the its zenith. The Geminids are actually fragments of an Earth-crossing asteroid, 3200 Phaeton, rather than the usual cometary debris that spawn most meteor showers. As such they are several times denser than the usual meteoroids and appear to travel slower than usual. This makes for better viewing. Their trails will appear longer as well.

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