Geminid Meteor Shower Starts Monday (12/12 to 12/16)
Since the Geminid Meteor shower is intensifying more every year, grab your binoculars and lay down in a field to enjoy the show! If you are going to observe one day, do it on the peak: December 14th.
The shower is caused by Palladian asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This, along with the Quadrantids shower, are the only ones caused by asteroids! 3200 Paethon has the path that comes closest to the sun out of all of the identified asteroids. It is called the Geminid Meteor Shower because the meteors generally start from the Gemini constellation. Here is a picture of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon:
Last year on the peak there were about 120-180 meteors each hour! Since the number has been intensifying each year, you can expect even more.
Okay, now your question is 'How do I observe it?'. Well, this is fairly simple.
Step 1 Gather Some Tools
There are a few tools you will need, but most of them are optional. All you really need is your eyes, but here are a few tools to make the experience more exciting.
- Binoculars: You shouldn't have really zoomed-in ones because it would be too hard to observe.
- A tripod: for your binoculars
- A lawn chair: It depends on how long you are going to be observing, but chairs really do help.
- A binocular observing attachment for your tripod: These are hard to find, but come in handy.
If you have all of these, your setup will look fairly similar to this one:
Step 2 Locate your Observing Location
Bryce Canyon, Utah. Yes, this is the best spot to observe (in the US). A couple of years ago, I was at Bryce canyon during the Perseids Meteor Shower and it was spectacular. I drove to an overlook parking lot where there were no lights or other people, but I didn't have my telescope. This is why Bryce Canyon is nicknamed 'Gateway to the Stars'. Now how amazing is this:
Unfortunately, not everyone lives by Bryce Canyon. So, the type of place you want to observe in should be a place with relatively low amounts of light pollution and no bright lights that will screw with your pupil size. An empty corn field would be an ideal place. You obviously want to avoid big cities or even towns because these all radiate light pollution which will distort the stars.
Step 3 Observe!
You need the patience to observe for a good half an hour. If you don't see any meteors, you don't see any. It's just the way it is. Also, you need to be able to identify the meteors from satellites. The meteors in this shower do move pretty slow, which makes it easier to observe through binoculars, but on the other hand also makes it harder to distinguish them from satellites. Satellites move slower and are usually smaller than the meteors.
Have fun observing the meteor shower! Also, try to take pictures and videos and post them to the community corkboard!