Geminids and Gibbous Moons


When the Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13 and 14, a pesky, almost full moon is poised to steal fireball thunder. The annual Geminids are one of the most prolific night shows, with an average of 120 meteors an hour. As if losing ISON wasn’t bad enough; a bright winter moon is expected to reduce visible meteors 2 – 5 fold.

Annual meteor showers result from earth’s orbit intersecting debris from a sun orbiting comet. Radiant point, is the name given to this intersection. Debris from comet 3200 Phaethon happens to intersect our orbit in the vicinity of constellation Gemini, hence – Geminids. To find Gemini, look for the star Castor, low on the east, north-east sky around 9 PM. Castor is one of the brightest stars in the sky and along with Pollux, make up the ” twin brothers ” of Gemini. The reason Geminids produce so many visible meteors is that the constellation and radiant point swing upward; by 2 AM the point is directly above you in the sky. The angle of the radiant, translates into no poor seats for this show – you can see it from anywhere, with 2 AM as your prime time.

This year we have a waxing gibbous moon to deal with – not a deal breaker, but grounds for some new rules. Since the nearly full moon is so bright, you should wait until the moon sets. This year pre-dawn moon set offers the best view. Get out of town – away from city lights – and give yourself a few minutes to adjust to the darkness. Gibbous moon aside – I guarantee you’ll see fireballs – you don’t even have to find Gemini, the Geminids have a crazy way of appearing to come from any direction.

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/radiant-point-for-geminid-meteor-shower

To find out when the moon sets in your little corner of the world – a link…..

http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services

Ponder the last time you wished upon a falling star.

Jupiter, Castor and Pollux rise at early-to-mid evening in early December but at dusk or nightfall  by the month's end.

Jupiter, Castor and Pollux rise at early-to-mid evening in early December but at dusk or nightfall by the month’s end.

Asteroid, Meteor, Meteorite


An asteroid is a solid chunk of space debris orbiting the sun; made of rock and metals it is considered inactive. Comets on the other hand can be quite active. Composed mainly of ice and smaller rocks, the “tail” we see is dust and gasses released from the ice by the sun’s energy. Meteoroids happen when asteroids collide; breaking into smaller pieces, or when the heat of the sun releases debris from a comet. A meteoroid that burns up in our atmosphere is called a meteor. If it makes impact; it becomes a meteorite.

A meteorite the size of a beach ball would make a crater over 60 feet wide and almost 20 feet deep. The blast wave would flatten trees and kill any living thing within a mile of impact.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch/fastfacts.cfm

Scientists consider anything under 100 LD (1 LD = distance from earth to the moon) a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). As of today there are 1366 PHA’s being monitored. On Feb. 15, 2013 DA14 – 57 metres, will pass between us and the moon at .9 LD. Behemoths like 3752 Camillo – 3.4 Km., and 1993 UC – 3.8 Km. will sail by on Feb. 12 and March 20 at 57.5 and 49 LD respectively.

There’s no sense in losing sleep over space junk; we can’t really do anything about it. Though reading my post on cosmic paintball is an interesting theory to ponder. Instead; thank your lucky stars the next time you wish on a falling star that it was a meteor and not a meteorite.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/?s=cosmic+paintball

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=+asteroid+and+meteorite+damage&view=detail&id=EE5958330CC1B58EE857D0D0FB7B4B3A79AAD83C&first=221

Geminid Meteor Shower


The weather outside is frightful, the Geminid shower is delightful. Peaking on Dec. 13 and 14, for those willing to bundle up in pre-dawn hours; expect up to 100 meteors an hour. Named the Geminid meteor shower as it appears to come from the direction of constellation Gemini. Geminid is believed to be debris from comet 3200 Phaethon, Phaethon broke apart after one too many close orbits to the sun melted its icy exterior.

According to earthsky.org the best time to witness Geminid is between 1 and 3 AM on Dec. 14. Bundle up, drive far from city lights, and restore your soul.

The bright streak of a Geminid meteor pierces the night sky over California's Mojave Desert during the annual meteor shower's 2009 peak.

A bright Geminid meteor pierces the night sky over California’s Mojave Desert in 2009.

Photograph by Wally Pacholka, TWAN