Meteor shower sparkles skies for two weeks

Starting last night, Filipino stargazers began to have a skygazing delight in areas where there was no drizzle with the Geminid meteor shower kicking off its two-week show which will peak on December 14 – the first of two this December.

HEAVENLY SIGHT. The Geminid meteor shower last year as captured by NASA photographer Jeff Dai.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the Geminid meteor shower was expected to deliver 120 meteors per hour under clear sky conditions.

The Ursid meteor shower will chase the Geminid meteor shower from December 17 to 26. This can show around four meteors per hour when Ursa Minor is at its peak before dawn on December 23.

PAGASA said these showers would be visible to the naked eye. It is ideal to observe them in a remote and dark location away from the city lights and under clear sky conditions.

Weather experts say the best time to see anything in the night sky is when the sky is darkest and when the target is at its highest position in the sky. For meteor showers, this usually occurs between midnight and the very early hours of the morning.

“This (meteor shower) is produced by debris left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon,” PAGASA said. “Best time to observe is around 2 a.m. when its radiant, constellation Gemini, reaches its highest position in the sky.”

The Geminids are a prolific meteor shower caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock comet” orbit. This would make the Geminids, together with the Quadrantids, the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet.

The Geminid meteor shower, typically the strongest meteor shower of the year, is officially active in the night skies and producing shooting stars and fireballs.

Even now, before its peak in mid-December, the Geminids can produce at least one meteor per hour, according to the American Meteor Society. On the other hand, the Ursids meteor activity begins annually around December 17 and runs for a week plus, until the 25th or 26th.

This meteor shower is named for its radiant point, which is located near the star Beta Ursae Minoris in the constellation Ursa Minor.

“Meteor showers are observable through the naked eye, and no special equipment such as telescopes or binoculars is needed,” PAGASA said in its December Astrological Diary.

“Maximize the viewing experience by choosing a dark observation site away from the city lights under clear and moonless sky conditions,” it added.

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