Me­te­ors set to brighten Ariz. sky next week

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Anne Ry­man

The year’s best and most re­li­able me­teor shower is just around the cor­ner.

Me­teor ac­tiv­ity is ex­pected to pick up over the next week, with the Gem­i­nid me­teor shower peak­ing Thurs­day night and early Fri­day morn­ing. That’s when the shower pro­duces the most me­te­ors — at a rate of 80 to 100 per hour.

“If you can stare at the sky for five to 10 min­utes at a time, then you should be re­warded,” said Adam Block, who works at Stew­ard Ob­ser­va­tory in the

Univer­sity of Ari­zona’s Depart­ment of As­tron­omy in Tuc­son.

To spot the most me­te­ors, fol­low these tips from Block and Ari­zona State Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Pa­trick Young with the School of Earth and Space Ex­plo­ration:

When to spot the most me­te­ors

The moon sets around 11 p.m. on Thurs­day. With the darker sky, the chances of spot­ting more me­te­ors in­crease af­ter mid­night and into the predawn hours of the next morn­ing.

The ab­so­lute best view­ing time will likely be be­tween 2 and 3 a.m., Block said, which is good news for in­som­ni­acs.

Around 3 a.m. is when the con­stel­la­tion Gem­i­nid, from which the me­te­ors will ap­pear to ra­di­ate, will be at its high­est point in the sky.

At the peak, the shower will pro­duce up to 100 me­te­ors per hour.

“But they are not evenly spaced,” Young said. “You might get half a dozen in two or three min­utes, and then there’s a 10-minute stretch when there are just one or two.”

Where to look in the sky

Me­te­ors will ap­pear through­out the sky.

You don’t need a tele­scope or binoc­u­lars. Us­ing a tele­scope could ob­scure your view be­cause it nar­rows your scope of vi­sion to one area of the sky.

How to view the Gem­i­nid shower

The darker the skies, the bet­ter. Get as far from city lights as you can. If that’s not pos­si­ble, find a dark spot in the yard, away from houses and street­lights.

Get com­fort­able and dress warmly. Sit in a lawn chair or stretch out on a blan­ket and gaze up at the sky.

“It will prob­a­bly be very cold,” at least by Ari­zona stan­dards, Block said. “This is the shower where you have to bun­dle up to see it.”

Plan to spend at least 30 min­utes out­side, be­cause it takes 15 to 20 min­utes for your eyes to ad­just to the dark. “You’ve just got to be pa­tient and wait,” he said, “and then you’ll be re­warded.”

What causes the Gem­i­nid shower

De­bris from an as­teroid called 3200 Phaethon cre­ates the Gem­i­nid shower. Ev­ery De­cem­ber, the Earth trav­els through par­ti­cles of dust left by the as­teroid. The dust burns up in the Earth’s at­mos­phere and cre­ates me­te­ors.

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