Geminid meteor shower to light up December sky

By Liji Varghese | Last Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 14:16

Zee Media Bureau/Liji Varghese

New Delhi: After comet ISON failed to live up to expectations, here is some good news for sky watchers. The 2013 Geminid Meteor Shower is all set to light up the sky with a remarkable display of cosmic fireworks beginning Thursday, December 4.

The final major celestial even of the year, Geminids are considered to be one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers. This year, the meteor shower will be active from December 4 through December 17, with the peak activity occurring on December 13 and December 14.

Initially, anywhere from 5 to 10 meteors per hour will be visible at night, leading up to 100-120 meteors per hour during the peak days with a velocity of 35 km (22 miles) per second.

According to the information on NASA`s website, Geminids are best viewed during the night starting around 9 or 10 pm and pre-dawn hours and are visible across the globe due to a nearly 24-hour broad maximum.

Geminids are extremely bright and fast meteors capable of producing fireballs. The meteors are distinguished by their multi-coloured display and can be visible in yellow, green or blue hues.

Unfortunately, this year is not very favourable for watching the Geminids as the peak of the meteor showers will coincide with the Waxing Gibbous Moon (93% full).

The Geminid meteors are created by tiny bits of rocky debris that originate from small asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, which is in a highly elliptical 1.4 year orbit. Over the centuries these bits have spread all along the asteroid’s orbit to form a sparse, moving “river of rubble” hundreds of millions of miles long.

The point of origin of the shower appears to lie in the direction of the constellation of Gemini, from which the meteor derives its name Geminids.

The Earth every year during mid-December passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to enter the atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colourful streaks in the sky.

First Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 14:16

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