Thursday, 11 December 2008

GEMINIDS - Meteor Shower

Every year, from the 12th-14th December (the peak on the 13th) it is possible, and very likely, that you will see meteors or shooting stars in the night sky. These meteors appear to come from the area of the constellation of Gemini but can actually be seen almost anywhere in the sky and are fairly easy to spot - especially in the absence of light pollution (street lights etc) or a bright moon. Unfortunately, there is a full moon on the 12th this year so this could make viewing more difficult. The peak viewing rate can be as much as 120 per hour at a dark site.
This meteor shower is caused by what is thought to be an extinct comet and were first observed only 150 years ago. Meteors are small fragments (not much bigger than a grain of sand) of cosmic debris which vapourise due to friction with the air when entering the earth's atmosphere. Fragments which do land on the earth's surface are called meteorites.