Me­teor shower set to light up the skies

Whitsunday Times - - CHILL -

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.

Shower

■ Fri­day, De­cem­ber 14

■ World­wide! Best view­ing for Qld is from 10.30pm on­wards.

PHOTO: CON­TRIBUTED

FLASH: This fire­ball from an ear­lier me­teor shower is one of the largest recorded.

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