Me­teor shower to light up sky

South Western Times - - News - Emily Ace

Na­ture’s best show of the year will be vis­i­ble for all to see tonight, as the Gem­i­nid me­teor shower puts on its spec­tac­u­lar an­nual dis­play.

A me­teor is the flash of light in the night sky caused when a small chunk of in­ter­plan­e­tary de­bris burns up as it passes through Earth’s at­mos­phere.

Karen O’Connor, from Gelorup busi­ness The Mo­bile Ob­ser­va­tory, said the shower was the big­gest and bright­est me­teor shower ob­serv­able in both hemi­spheres, with 120 to 160 me­te­ors per hour at its peak. This will oc­cur from late tonight to the early hours of to­mor­row morn­ing, with 2am of­fer­ing ideal view­ing con­di­tions.

For those un­will­ing to stay up on a week night, Mrs O’Connor said ear­lier view­ings would still of­fer a shoot­ing star at least ev­ery minute.

“The Gem­i­nids will ap­pear to the north-east, just above the hori­zon in the con­stel­la­tion of Gemini,” she said.

“Al­though the me­te­ors will ap­pear to have Gemini as their point of ori­gin, they can ap­pear any­where in the night sky.

“Sim­ply face north-east and scan the sky to see dozens of shoot­ing stars at its peak.”

Us­ing Orion’s belt as a ref­er­ence point, Mrs O’Connor said to look to the left for a red star, from which the Gemini con­stel­la­tion is lo­cated di­rectly be­low. She said me­te­ors would still be vis­i­ble each night across the week­end.

The me­teor shower is not the only spec­ta­cle star gaz­ers can look for­ward to this week, with Comet 46P/Wir­ta­nen — also known as the Christ­mas Comet — set to whiz past Earth at its clos­est ap­proach in more than 70 years, late on Sun­day night.

The green-coloured comet will be at its bright­est be­tween De­cem­ber 14 and 18.

“That one to the naked eye may just look like a big fuzzy star, but we rec­om­mend peo­ple with binoc­u­lars have a look,” she said.

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