Stargazing Side Quest Week 48: Geminids Meteor Shower

Happy Wednesday everyone!

This week our side quest target is the Geminids Meteor Shower! This is one of the best meteor showers of the year. With a Moonless night and sufficiently dark skies you can see up to 120 meteors per hour!

This meteor shower technically peaked late last night, but according to the American Meteor Society it is active from November 19th through December 24th so tonight will be just as good for seeing some shooting stars, especially because the Moon rises later in the night now that it’s nearly at last quarter phase. The best time to start looking up at this meteor shower tonight just so happens to be around our usual “look up” time of 10pm. Be sure to give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust to the dark skies without looking at your phone or any white light (red light is ok) so you can see more! If you can find a spot without any bright streetlights that would be ideal too.

To find this meteor shower look for our old Stargazing Side Quest targets Castor & Pollux in the Gemini constellation from week 9. You can find these two stars by starting at Orion and tracing a line up from Betelgeuse (the bright reddish star at the top-left). The Geminids will be seen near Castor. Be sure to use an app like Sky Map to help you locate this star and the meteor shower.

Screenshot of the Gemini constellation from Stellarium
Screenshot of the Gemini constellation from Stellarium

The Geminids meteor shower originated from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon that was first discovered in 1983. This asteroid orbits the Sun every 1.4 years and when the Earth passes through its tail of debris we get to see the Geminids shower. This is actually the first asteroid to be associated with a meteor shower and astronomers are still uncertain about it’s exact origin. Check out this link to learn more about this weirdo space rock and it’s resulting beautiful meteor shower.

For the astrologically inclined, you can even see where this asteroid falls in your chart by plugging 3200 into the “manual entry” section at the bottom of this chart-generating site here. Let us know where 3200 Phaethon was when you were born!

Let us know if you see any shooting stars from tonight’s meteor shower! If you can’t make it out tonight or have cloudy skies that’s ok – you can still try again tomorrow night. Tag @stargazingsidequest and if you’re on Instagram if you take any pics of the Gemini constellation where this shower will be seen so we can boost and share your stargazing achievement for this week!

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