Meteor shower set to light up the skies
TRAIN your eyes skywards, as one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year is set to illuminate the heavens.
Emerging out of the constellation Gemini (hence the name), the Geminids meteor shower occurs at a similar time each year, when Earth passes through the “tail” or a cloud of debris from an asteroid, which is unusual as most meteor showers are formed from the tail of a comet.
James Cook University physics lecturer John Daicopoulos said the trail of debris from an asteroid or a comet was similar to a cloud of dust trailing from a car driving along a dirt road.
“The Earth orbits the sun, and every year around this time, the Earth passes through the dust cloud, which is essentially the asteroid tail,” he said
“We’re close to a new moon, and the shower is just before the moon reaches its first quarter, which is good as meteors aren’t necessarily the brightest things around so you don’t want a big bright moon, you want a dark sky.”
Mr Daicopoulos said when it came to optimum viewing times, it is a bit “guessing game”.
“You never know what part of the cloud or debris the earth will pass through, so the best way to view the meteor shower is to just get outside and look up.
“Geminids will be fast – they’ll be in the sky for a few seconds. You never know what’s going to come in any given year but, generally, you can see anything from one to three per minute.”
“There might be a great fireball that night, or there might not – but you won’t see it if you’re not looking at the sky,” he said.
■ Friday, December 14
■ Worldwide! Best viewing for Qld is from 10.30pm onwards.
FLASH: This fireball from an earlier meteor shower is one of the largest recorded.