Geminid shower to arc bright meteors through Arizona skies this week
Get set for what may be the best meteor shower of the year!
The annual Geminid meteor shower will arrive this week, along with the rare close passage of asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
The Geminid meteor shower is powered by the rock and debris from this unique asteroid/comet, which will be about 6 million miles from Earth on Saturday.
The Geminid meteor shower is known for numerous bright, slow-moving meteors and, if this year is anything like past showers, Arizona observers may get to see upwards of 100 bright meteor from the darkest locations.
A big plus for this shower is the fact that moonlight will not interfere with your observing plans, so long as the weather holds out.
Let’s get ready to observe this amazing sky event: Begin looking to the northeast sky starting around 9 p.m. local time, just as the constellation of Gemini rises.
There are two bright stars that mark the top of Gemini — Castor and Pollux — that are bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. This is the general region of the radiant of the meteor shower.
Meteor rates will pick up during the night as you get your eyes adapted to the darkness!
The source of these meteors has another story attached to it!
Asteroid 3200 Phaethon was discovered back in 1983 by an orbiting space craft and the debris from the comet was traced back to the orbit of the meteor shower.
Phaethon, from Greek mythology was the son of the sun god, Helios!
Phaethon translates to “the shining one” in Greek. He tried to navigate the sun god’s chariot, but could not control the horses.
The god Zeus was not impressed and killed him with a thunderbolt from the sky. Zeus did this as Earth was about to be burned up by the out-of-control chariot of fire!
Observers with small telescopes may be able to actually track and follow this asteroid as it crosses our Arizona skies.
Here is a very interesting link with more information if you are up to the challenge of spotting this asteroid.
Here is your very own December sky map to help locate many of the objects and events listed above.
- Arizonans can see year’s brightest comet, 46P/Wirtanen, this week
- Witness the potential return of a 19th century meteor shower
- Important meteor showers return to Arizona skies in November
- Discovery Channel Telescope is part of Arizona’s rich astronomy history
- Arizonans can see Pleiades star cluster during clear October evenings