Meteors set to brighten Ariz. sky next week
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.