Geminid meteor shower to create spectacular celestial displaytext_fields
Skygazers are all set to receive a beautiful display in the sky.
The Geminid meteor shower, a dazzling phenomenon visible annually in December, originates from the dust trail of an asteroid named Phaethon.
As Phaethon orbits closer to the Sun, it continuously sheds dust, forming a vast, dusty tube in space. Earth intersects this debris every December, treating skygazers to the magnificent Geminid meteor shower.
These dust grains from Phaethon strike Earth's atmosphere at an astounding speed of approximately 34 kilometres per second. Their impact generates a brilliant flash of light, commonly known as a shooting star, as the grains vaporise due to the intense heat caused by atmospheric friction - a process termed 'ablation.'
Despite the shower spanning from November 19 to December 24, the peak occurs on December 14 and 15 when Earth passes through the densest part of Phaethon's debris. During this phase, observers witness a surge in visible meteors.
The ideal time to observe the shower is the evening of December 14 into the morning of December 15, while nights before and after also offer splendid celestial displays.
For optimal meteor viewing, find a dark location away from city lights. Lie down comfortably, allowing ample time, at least half an hour, to gaze at the sky. Consider bringing blankets and warm clothing, and ensure safety by scouting the area during daylight.
Locate the radiant - Gemini constellation - for the best viewing direction. Position yourself about 45 degrees to the left or right of the radiant, and tilt your head approximately 45 degrees above the horizon for an optimal viewing angle.
Professor Jonti Horner, an astronomer and astrobiologist at the University of Southern Queensland, advises that allowing your eyes to adjust to darkness for 30 to 45 minutes enhances the meteor shower experience. Avoid exposure to any light sources, such as phones, during this time.
He also suggests relaxing and enjoying the celestial spectacle while lying comfortably under the stars. Professor Horner, with expertise in the Solar System and celestial bodies, emphasises the wonder of meteor showers and the joy they bring to skywatchers worldwide.