BY AMY SAYLE
First, the good news about the 2013 Geminid meteor shower:
- The peak night happens at a convenient time for many people, the beginning of the weekend: Friday evening, Dec. 13, through Saturday morning, Dec. 14, 2013.
- Even better for most of us, this meteor shower can provide good viewing in the evening hours. It’s worth trying to spot Geminids as early as 9 or 10 p.m.
- This is a strong, reliable shower, with up to one or two meteors visible per minute under dark skies.
Now, the not-so-good news:
- Speaking of dark skies, for this year’s Geminids a waxing gibbous moon will be up most of the night. This means moonlight will wash out the dimmer meteors from view. Expect to see the most meteors (if it’s clear) on Saturday morning after moonset and before morning twilight. For those of you in the Chapel Hill area, your window is between roughly 4:45 and 5:45 a.m. Saturday. (Sorry.)
And finally, the potentially really bad news:
- Your sky might not be clear. For the Triangle area, current forecasts call for clouds to arrive the night of Dec. 13/14.
So you might try looking tonight (Dec. 12/13, 2013) – the Geminids are already active, and it looks like North Carolina and most of the southeast U.S. will have clear skies. And one expert thinks that the peak will occur earlier, meaning that Friday morning the 13th could actually be the best time to look, after moonset (3:43 a.m. Friday for Chapel Hill) and before dawn. If you decide to view Geminid meteors, try to find a dark place away from unshielded lights with an open view of the sky. Wear really warm clothes, and bring a reclining chair or sleeping bag. Look toward the darkest part of your sky, away from the Moon and any unshielded lights. Geminid meteors appear to radiate away from the constellation Gemini, but you don’t need to know how to find Gemini to see the meteors. They can appear in any part of the sky. If Friday the 13th turns into an unlucky night of clouds, don’t despair. As part of Morehead’s 2nd Friday event, Science on the Sundial, we’ll have an 8 p.m. Carolina Skies show, where we can simulate a meteor shower for you.
Photo: Jupiter is currently hanging out in the direction of Gemini, the constellation from which the Geminid meteors appear to originate.