Geminid Meteor Shower peaks with 120 meteors per hour

We received the following message from Frosty Drew Observatory

When:  Saturday, December 13, all night
Where: Frosty Drew Observatory, in Ninigret Park, Charlestown

Charlestown Milky Way
Photo by Dave Kerber

A fabulous night of shooting stars and frigid temps as the fabled Geminid Meteor Shower peak is coming to the skies over planet Earth. Producing upwards of 120 meteors per hour under perfect conditions, sky watchers are continuously mesmerized. This year, the third quarter moon will rise around 11:30 p.m. offering fantastic opportunities to catch a stunning display of meteors earlier in the night. Clear your schedule because the Geminid shower is surely one of the best, if not the best, meteor showers of the year.

Unlike most meteor showers, that originate from comets, Geminid meteors originate from the asteroid: 3200 Phaethon. The meteor spewing asteroid was discovered on October 11, 1983, is only 3.17 miles in diameter and has a 1.4 year orbital period around the Sun. 3200 Phaethon is quite the misfit asteroid as well. Sporting a highly elliptical orbit, it has lead scientist to suspect it may be a dead comet. Though when passing at its closest to the Sun (perihelion) it does not form a comet like tail or tenuous atmosphere (coma). Regardless of the strangeness that surrounds 3200 Phaethon, one this is certain. It sure leaves behind one heck of a debris field that fuels the mid-December meteor spectacular for all of us watchers on Earth.

This year we can expect meteors to pick up around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night, December 13th. Meteors will appear to originate from the bright star, Castor in the constellation Gemini. As Castor rises higher into the sky, meteors will become way more frequent. The Geminid shower is also know to produce a colorful display of meteors, obviously in seasonally festive fashion, as well as frequent fireball meteors that light up the sky.

Frosty Drew Observatory will open all night long Saturday night in observance of the shower. The 2012 Geminid shower at Frosty Drew was mind blowing! Visitors from all over New England came out as meteors rained down on us all night long. Pack up warm clothes, blankets, lawn chairs, sleeping bags, hot glogg…, much enthusiasm, and make plans for a fabulous night out under the Charlestown starscape as fast moving meteors shoot by.