The annual Geminid meteor shower has become one of the most reliable annual meteor showers. Known for bright and slow moving fireballs the Geminids can provide a good reason to spend a few hours outside on a December night. This shower has routinely provided rates above 100 meteors per hours in past years, this year should be no exception.

Leonids in Orion
A pair of Leonid meteors streak through Orion, combination of 10 x 15s frames
First observed over 150 years ago this is a interesting meteor shower. The parent body for the Geminids is not a comet as with most showers, but rather the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. It is somewhat of a mystery how this mostly rocky body gives rise to the debris stream needed to generate a meteor shower. The asteroid does orbit well inside the orbit of Mercury every four years, where intense solar heating may heat trapped ice and liberate loose material from the surface.

Stargazing on Hawai’i

Here on the Big Island the single best place to stargaze is the Mauna Kea VIS. The dark skies are usually free of clouds and are well away from the lights of Hilo and Kona. After dark use for stargazing is not only permitted, but encouraged. It can be cold at 9,200ft, bring warm clothes and blankets

The peak is expected to occur around December 13, 07h to December 14, 04h UT. For viewers here in Hawai’i this occurs on the night of December 12th. The Geminids feature a broad peak, with high rates for nearly 24 hours, thus allowing the all time zones a decent chance to enjoy the show.

There should be no substantial moonlight to drown out this years showing, dark skies to allow even the faintest meteors to be seen. The Moon is a thin waxing crescent, 1% illuminated on the morning of the 13th, essentially new.

The Geminid radiant rises round 8pm, thus meteors should be visible all night long. You can stay up late or set the alarm early, your preference. Southern viewers will have to wait until around midnight for the constellation Gemini to rise, making this a morning shower.

Watching meteors requires no more equipment than your eyes and a dark sky, and can be enjoyable for just about anyone. Well? It is December, you should probably add a warm coat to the equipment list.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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