Celestial Light Show Begins Tomorrow on December 13
Did you miss out on this year’s Orionid meteor shower or the Super Moon? Don’t miss Thursday’s sky phenomenon and you may see something no earthling has seen before – meteors from the comet Wirtanen.
According to NASA, the comet was discovered in 1948 and orbits the sun every 5.4 years, but 2012 will mark the first time the Earth’s orbit will cross the comet’s debris field, which is expected to produce meteors.
But just because you spot meteors this week, doesn’t mean they are from Wirtanen. That’s because the Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak Thursday night.
The Gemenids appear annually in December. These meteors were first observed before the Civil War. They appear when the earth passes through debris from the extinct comet 3200 Phaethon.
The Gemenid meteor shower takes its name because when traced the meteors appear to pour out of the constellation Gemeni. This fact will also help you distinguish between meteors of Wirtanen and Gemenid. Meteors from Wirtanen will appear out of the Pisces constellation.
Stay up a little longer this Thursday or set your alarm for 11 p.m. ET. The Gemenid meteor shower could deliver dozens (or even hundreds) of visible meteors per hour until approximately 3 a.m. on December 14. Keep your eyes (and scopes) toward the sky!
The eye needs up to 20 minutes to adjust to night vision, he says. Find a dark area away from lights, if possible, and avoid looking at any lights.