Holiday Season Meteors

Posted December 13, 2009 by User 1

Snow blowing around, bone-chilling temperatures intensified by the powerful gusts. Winter has arrived for us in the north and that signifies the beginning of a series of meteor showers to come.

The first of these displays is what may be this year's grandest, the Geminids. This shower was first observed only a little over a century ago and has since intensified into a reliable display of over 120 meteors an hour. The Geminids peak this year around December 13-14 with a near-new moon making for optimal viewing conditions for those with clear skies. The radiant is in the constellation of Gemini, to the left an above Orion, the hunter which should be high in the sky as soon as the sun sets.

A lesser display comes a little over a week later from the constellation of Ursa Minor known as the Ursids. This shower produces, at maximum, only 15-20 an hour although has peaked at over 100 an hour when its parent comet, 8P/Tuttle, flies by. Optimal viewing is late night of December 22 and early morning of December 23.

Those in Asia and other eastern locations in the north will be treated to a third shower, the Quadrantids. The Quadrantids are the year's first organized meteors and one of the best occasionally exceeding the rate of the Geminids. However, activity is VERY short and a few hours will make all the difference between seeing a lot or seeing nothing. This time around, the peak is at 19:00 UTC on January 3, equivalent to 11:00 AM PST putting the show out of reach for most Americans this year. (Except Alaska where the sun is down much of the day but stormy weather makes the viewing there difficult as well) The radiant of this shower is in the constellation of Bo÷tes marked by Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere.

The Geminids, Ursids and Quadrantids...will you catch any of them? Make good wishes and may the best of luck be with you on your campaigns!


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