The Geminids meteor shower will be at peak visibility over the US and Ireland on Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
The magic of Christmas will be made even more special tonight with the highest visibility for a meteor shower in 2017 on the cards for Ireland and the US in the form of the annual Geminids meteor shower.
With clear skies ahead, the biggest meteor shower of 2017, which graces us with an appearance every December, will reach peak visibility overnight on Wednesday, December 13, offering up the perfect opportunity for us all to spend the evening appreciating the beauty of the night’s skies.
And we should all make the most of the opportunity as this is the highest visibility of the Geminids that we’ll have until the end of this century! No need for any binoculars or telescopes, simply wrap up warm, step outside and look up for the chance to see the meteor shower.
For all the ins and outs, we have all your questions on the Geminids 2017 answered:
The Geminids meteor shower is an annual occurrence that generally lights up the skies around December 13 every year. It is caused by the “rock comet” Phaethon crossing Earth’s orbit and leaving behind it a stream of dust particles that light up as they burn through our atmosphere.
The Geminids are so called because when the “fireballs,” the streams of light which are so bright the can even be seen in cities, travel through the Earth’s atmosphere, they always leave a path behind them that points in the direction of the constellation of Gemini. In fact, the whole meteor shower appears to be flooding from the constellation.
In December 2017, the Phaethon is coming within 100 million km of the Earth on December 16, the closest it will be until 2093. This “closer” proximity to our planet is the reason why the meteor fireworks are expected to be especially great this year.
The Geminids meteors are very bright and very fast (79,000 mph) which is why it’s so famous for creating fireballs. These are meteors that are brighter than magnitude -4, the same magnitude as the planet Venus.
December 2017 Geminids visibility in Ireland
Rural areas are, of course, better if you want to see the best of the meteor shower but the Geminids should still be visible within cities and towns, especially if there are not many streetlights around.
They will be visible in Ireland between dusk and dawn but after midnight is said to provide the best visibility.
After 4am, in particular, the lessened light from the moon will make the meteor shower even greater.
"Up to 50 times more shooting stars than a normal night are expected in what should be a wonderful natural celestial fireworks display" said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.
"We are asking members of the public to count how many they see every 15 minutes and send in their counts via our website as it is the general public who keep an annual eye on meteor showers and allow us to forecast when the best ones occur."
December 2017 Geminids visibility in the USA
Within the US, the south and west are expected to have the best chance of viewing the meteor shower with clear skies forecast, while those in the north and east will also have to contend will a blast of cold temperatures which may make it more difficult to spend considerable periods of time outside watching the skies.
"Suggested gear includes a lawn chair, lots of warm clothing, blankets, cookies or fruit, and a warm, non-alcoholic beverage. Alcohol interferes with the eye’s dark adaption as well as the visual perception of events," according to Astronomy.com.
If you miss out on the action tonight, the Geminids will still be visible on Thursday, December 14, 2017, as well but will not be quite as spectacular.
Have you witnessed the Geminids before? Where will you view the meteor shower from tonight? Tell us about it in the comments section, below.
H/T: Breaking News