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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2003 > Dec > Dec 11

Colorful Geminid Meteor Shower Comes This Weekend

From: Frank Warren <frank-warren@pacbell.net>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 09:05:26 -0800
Fwd Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 11:15:44 -0500
Subject: Colorful Geminid Meteor Shower Comes This Weekend

Source: Atlantic City Press


December 9, 2003

Colorful Geminid meteor shower comes this weekend

By Fred Schaaf For The Press

Now is the season for giving gifts. Weather permitting, the
heavens themselves will be giving all of us a wonderful present
this weekend - the Geminid meteor shower.

Meteors - also called "shooting stars" and "falling stars" - are
the streaks of light caused when a piece of space rock or dust
hurtles into our atmosphere at speeds as fast as 140,000 mph and
burns up from friction. Usually the particle burns up completely
when it is still at least 50 miles above the Earth's surface -
only one meteor in many millions reaches the ground to become a

On certain nights each year, Earth passes near the dust-strewn
orbits of old comets. On those nights, we see a meteor shower. A
meteor shower is an enhanced number of meteors all seeming to
shoot out from a particular spot among the constellations, a spot
called a "radiant."

This weekend, the big shower has its radiant in the constellation
Gemini the Twins, so its meteors are called the Geminids, or
offspring of Gemini.

Why do the meteors in a shower all appear to emanate from one
part of the sky, even though the particles enter our atmosphere
on more or less parallel paths? It is really just an effect of
perspective that we get whenever we view parallel things coming
to us from a distance.

Other examples include railroad rails seeming to diverge from a
point in the distance and snowflakes seeming to diverge from a
point ahead us when we drive through a snowstorm.

Let's hope there are no snowstorms Saturday or Sunday night. The
greatest number of Geminids would usually be seen in the middle
of the night, but a very bright moon rises around 9 p.m. Saturday
and 10 p.m. Sunday to greatly reduce the number of visible Geminids.

However, quite a few Geminids will be visible earlier each
evening. If the sky is very clear and you are many miles from
city lights, you might see about 20 Geminids in the final hour
before moonrise. Better yet, many Geminids are bright and
colorful. Some give us bursts and explosions (these are called
bolides) and you might see a Geminid "fireball," a meteor
brighter than Venus.

By the way, between 6 and 7 p.m., we might also be treated to a
few Geminid "earthgrazers." Earthgrazers are usually bright and
long-pathed meteors that occur when the radiant of a meteor
shower is rising.

Later on Saturday and Sunday evening, you can try counting how
many Geminids you see in an hour or half-hour (it's fun to do
this with a friend, but make certain each person keeps a separate

Geminids may appear anywhere in the sky. But their paths will all
point back toward the radiant in Gemini, located increasingly
high in the east during the evening. Count separately any meteors
you see come from other directions.

Remember to dress as warm as you possibly can. City dwellers will
see far fewer total meteors but could still catch the bright
ones. Write to me if you observe the Geminids.