What is the Geminid meteor shower?
- Every year, the Earth goes once around the Sun. And every December, the Earth crashes into a cloud of debris left behind by the asteroid Phaethon. As the debris burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere, it produces the meteor shower that we call the Geminids.
- At its peak, the Geminids produce about 100 meteors per hour. They’re usually very bright and there’s always a chance of seeing one that becomes a fireball.
When is the best time to see the Geminid meteor shower in 2022?
- The best time to see the Geminids in 2022 is from 10pm on Wednesday 14th until dawn on Thursday 15th December.
- Unfortunately, viewing conditions are not great for 2022, with the Moon being 72% full on 14th December.
- The Geminids will start appearing from 14th November and continue until 24th December.
How can I see the Geminid meteor shower from the UK?
- You don’t need any special equipment to see the Geminid meteor shower from the UK but a bit of preparation is a good idea.
- First, check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be cloudy, then try the days before the peak viewing period.
- Next, find a dark (but safe!) place with a clear view away from buildings, trees, and street lights. The Geminids can appear in any part of the sky, so the more you can see the better.
- Also, make sure you turn off all torches and phones for 15 minutes so that your eyes can adjust to the darkness. If you need to use a torch, then consider buying one with a red filter.
- Finally, make sure that you’re warm and comfortable. The Geminids can be viewed for many hours, so a reclining chair and refreshing beverages are an excellent idea.
If you are planning to take pictures of meteors, Mary McIntyre has some very useful tips for you on how to take better meteor pictures.
Another great way to watch the Perseids is to buy or build yourself a meteor camera. You’ll be able to create amazing time lapse videos like the one below and join the UK network of over 170 meteor cameras. You don’t need any previous experience and it’s a great project to do with your kids or students!
Fun facts about the Geminid meteor shower
- They’re called the Geminids because the meteors seem to come from the constellation of Gemini. However, they’re actually caused by the Earth crashing into debris left behind by the asteroid Phaethon.
- The Geminids are unusual in being multi-coloured: mainly white, sometimes yellow and occasionally red, green, or blue. These colours are partly caused by the presence of metals such as sodium and calcium. It’s the same effect that we use to make fireworks colourful.
- Together with the Quadrantids, the Geminids are the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet.
- The Geminids were first observed in 1862, much more recently than other meteor showers such as the Perseids and Leonids. They’re also thought to be intensifying every year.
- The average speed for a Geminid meteor is relatively slow at just 22 miles per second (although that’s still 80,000 miles per hour!). The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius. The smaller meteors vaporise and leave behind a bright trail but larger meteors can explode as fireballs.