Astronomy enthusiast or otherwise, certain celestial phenomenon put everyone in awe. And today, we have the chance to view one such phenomenon across the world – the Geminid meteor shower. Here’s a guide on how you can view this event anywhere in India, even without dedicated equipment. But first…
A little background
A meteor shower is essentially when a number of meteors appear to originate from a point/region in the sky over a specific period of time. These meteors can be anything ranging from comet debris to asteroid…debris that enters Earth’s atmosphere and burns up due to atmospheric friction. Mostly, meteor showers originate from comets.
And that’s exactly the first thing that makes the Geminids special.
The Geminids originate from the celestial object 3200 Phaethon, which is estimated by scientists to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock” comet orbit. Which essentially means that it is a comet without ice since it travels much closer to the sun than other comets. Phaethon’s nature makes its debris rockier, making the meteors more persistent and last longer. And since last year’s December supermoon more or less stole the show from the Geminids and this year’s Perseids were also less visible due to the moon, the 2017 Geminids are all the more special and possibly the best show of 2017.
When, where and how
The Geminids are one of the rare meteor showers that are visible both from the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere. And they will be bright enough for you to not require any additional equipment like a binocular or telescope to view them.
The meteor shower is expected to begin around 10 pm IST tonight, the 13th of December and peak around 2 am, 14th of December. While initial visibility rates can be as low as 10-11 per hour, during the peak it can go as high as 120 per hour, providing a dazzling display of celestial fireworks if you know where to look.
The shower originates from the Gemini constellation. You need to be looking at the northeastern sky. As a guide, you can try to find Orion, from where you’ll need to look above and to the right to find Gemini. You’ll also need to be away from the city, preferably in a dark area where there is no glare from surrounding lights or overhead pollution. If you’re having trouble identifying your constellations, try out Star Walk 2, an augmented reality-based astronomy app. But there are a few precautions you need to take.
While you can use your phone to locate the constellations, it is advisable to not use it for extended periods of time. Although the Geminids will be visible to the naked eye, it is also true that your eyes will take some time to adjust to the darkness. So if you’re tempted to check your phone or re-locate Orion or Gemini using Star Walk 2, do it well before you expect to see the meteors or risk missing them.
So head out of the city, or stay where you are if you’re not in a city and follow the steps above to see one of the best things the night sky has to show you this year. And if you do happen to click some good shots, do share them with us on the Digit Geek Facebook page. Who knows, it might even bring out your inner astronomer?