TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansans turning their eyes upward later this month may have a chance to spot a meteor or two streaking across the night sky.
Peaking around mid-December every year, the Geminids meteor shower is widely considered to be one of the most reliable annual meteor showers, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. While meteors from the Geminids can be seen from Nov. 19 to Dec. 24, they reach their peak during the predawn hours of Dec. 14, according to NASA Solar System Ambassador Brenda Culbertson.
Culbertson said Kansans will be able to see the meteors, but a very bright moon may limit how many viewers could potentially see.
“Since a bright Moon will dominate the skies during the peak night/morning, people will see many fewer meteors than the 120 per hour that could be visible if the skies were moonless and clear,” Culbertson said. “The exact number of meteors that will be visible depends on the person’s location and how many of the brighter meteors appear.”
The Geminids come from an asteroid called 3200 Phathonmay which Culbertson said may be an expired comet that left a debris trail behind before it ran out of the material that creates the cometary aroma. This is referred to as a “rock comet” by NASA and is considered to be a new topic of discussion among scientists.
“The Geminids are known for having some very bright members, and even though a bright Moon will dominate the peak night, some of the bright meteors may still be visible,” Culbertson said.
The Geminids first began to appear during the mid-1800s, but the first noteworthy showers only contained around 10-20 meteors per hour, according to NASA. The Geminids have since become one of the major meteor showers of the year. During their peak, 120 meteors can be seen per hour under perfect conditions.
“People may spot one of the bright Geminid meteors in current skies, as several people have,” Culbertson said. “They appear to come from the constellation Gemini, and they fly any direction across the sky from that point, so people should go out and just look up to see the meteor trails.”
Culbertson said the shower is named after the constellation from which it originates: Gemini or the “Twins.” This helps viewers identify which part of the sky is the “radiant” or point of origin for the shower. However, NASA reports that you should look to other parts of the sky as well as the Geminids are visible throughout the sky.