East Hawaii News

Geminid Meteor Shower Peaking

December 13, 2013, 12:47 PM HST
* Updated December 13, 12:57 PM
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The Geminid meteor shower, often considered the year’s best night sky display, will peak tonight and early Saturday morning.

However, a waxing gibbous (three-quarter) moon will interfere with viewing until it sets at about 4:45 a.m. Saturday.

That will give early-morning risers about a little more than two hours of meteor-watching before the sun rises at 7:01 a.m.

That is also assuming that the weather cooperates.

The National Weather Service forecast is calling for mostly cloudy skies and scattered showers on the windward side of the Big Island. For the leeward side it’s more promising, with only hazy conditions expected.

There’s also the option of online viewing here and here.

The Geminids originate from a rocky remnant of 3200 Phaethon, thought to be an asteroid but which acts like a comet.

They appear in our sky when the Earth passes through a stream of 3200 Phaethon’s debris.

Since the Geminids were first observed in the 1800s, the rate of meteors has increased as the gravity from Jupiter brings the debris closer to Earth. Displays in recent years have featured as many as 100 meteors per hour.

Because the stream is broad, Geminids can be observed this year from Dec. 12 through Dec. 16.

The Geminids are so-named because they appear to originate from the constellation Gemini.

To find Gemini in December Hawaii skies, face north and the constellation will be located to the east (on your right), a little more than halfway from the center of the sky to the horizon, and just below the bright planet Jupiter.

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