Hope For Clear Skies: Geminid Meteor Shower Arrives
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by Dave Smith
It’s time for one of the best meteor showers of the year, but cloudy conditions may mean that online viewing could be the best option for Big Island residents.
According to NASA, the Geminid meteor shower this year lasts from Dec. 10-16, with Thursday night, Dec. 13, anticipated to be the peak time for viewing.
It remains to be seen whether the weather will cooperate.
The forecast from the National Weather Service for Thursday night calls for mostly cloudy conditions with showers likely in East Hawaii and along the Hamakua coast, and partly cloudy skies above the rest of the Big Island.
Cloudy conditions also prevailed over most of the island during last month’s Leonid meteor shower.
Astronomers say the Geminids, named for the constellation of Gemini from which they sometimes appear to emanate, is one of the most consistent meteor showers of the year. This year’s event is anticipated to be lively, NASA said on its Chat website.
According to the Bishop Planetarium in Honolulu, by midnight Thursday Gemini will be about halfway up the eastern sky.
The Geminids meteors are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. NASA said Phaethon was long thought to be an asteroid but is now classified as the rocky remnant of an extinct comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun.
If clouds get in the way of Geminid viewing, a live feed of the meteor shower will be embedded in NASA’s Chat website. The source will be a camera mounted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
NASA said viewers tuning in before the camera self-activates at dusk will see either pre-recorded footage or a blank box.
Meteor experts from the Marshall center will also be available to answer questions via online chat at the website from 6-10 p.m. Thursday, Hawaii time.