Meteor shower tonight

December 13, 2010 • 10:26 am

If you’re up for staying up late tonight, National Geographic reports that you can see one of the most spectactular meteor showers of the year: the Geminid shower. It’s best seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The quarter moon will obscure the first part of the show, but once it sets after midnight [your local time], the conditions should be ideal,” said Geza Gyuk, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.

“If you can’t stay up that late, then after 10 p.m. is okay too, but the later the better.”

The missed sleep may be worth it: The Geminids have been rising in intensity and brightness, and the upcoming show may outshine the more famous August Persieds as the best meteor shower of 2010.

“The Geminids have been slowly getting better over the past years, making it one of the best showers,” Gyuk said. “And it has become very reliable, so we can expect a fairly nice show.” . .

The Inquisitr reports:

Skygazers can expect as many as 140 shooting stars during the Geminid shower, starting around 9pm EST. Peak hours are from 10pm until 5am Eastern time, and Geminids are expected to be most frequent in the two hours around 1:10 am EST. Viewers can expect “beautiful, long arcs” of light across the night sky lasting a few seconds. Those in areas without significant amounts of light pollution can expect a peak of 60 meteors an hour.

Part of last year’s Geminid shower

25 thoughts on “Meteor shower tonight

    1. Of course, we do have “significant amounts of light pollution”, so I may have to drive somewhere to see anything decent.

    1. You need a clock drive, to compensate for the rotation of the Earth. Otherwise, it’s just a long exposure.

      1. But won’t the clock drive distort the foreground just as much as not using a clock drive would make star trails? Or are these all done with blended exposures?

        I have in mind for one of my earlier attempts to take a picture of Andromeda rising over the Superstition Mountains. I’m hoping it’s far enough out of town to sufficiently mitigate light pollution.

        Camera gear is a 5DII and a bag o’ primes.

        For Andromeda, I’m guessing I’d want the 85 f/1.8; anything wider and I’m guessing it’d be too small to be distinguishable. But, on the other hand, I’m afraid that 85mm might be too long to avoid star trails….



          1. Thanks, but that’s a bit…thin…to create the kinds of photos I have in mind.

            One of the big challenges with photos like the one that Jerry included up above is balancing the foreground exposure with the sky.

            It’s a problem in all of photography, really. Many real-world scenes that one might wish to photograph have wide ranges of illumination.

            You might, for example, wish to capture both the bright colors of the sunlit house in the background and the children’s expressions as they play in the shade of the big oak tree in front. The problem is that the correct exposure for the house will turn the shade under the tree into a black blob, and the correct exposure for the kids will turn the house and sky into a faint white smudge. You either have to take two exposures (in quick succession with a tripod) and merge them together (with Photoshop or in the darkroom) or you have to blast a serious amount of light onto the kids (with a monster flash setup, or huge reflectors, or something similar) to get a photo that looks like the original scene. Some modern cameras have enough of a dynamic range that you can actually get surprisingly good results with a single exposure…but you need to do some very careful post-processing in Photoshop to get it right. Straight out of the camera, it’ll be a mess.

            The source of the problem is that we only see a very small portion of the scene at a time; our eyes very quickly adapt to different illumination levels; and our brains stitch it all together into a seamless whole.

            Of course, the only way I’ll learn how to do that kind of astrophotography is by going out and doing it. Fortunately, the “film” is free…the only problem is, it’ll be several months at least before my work schedule is likely to open up enough for me to find the time….

            <sigh />



            1. If you haven’t already, try the BAUT Forum.

              Between the Astrophotography and Astronomical Observing, Equipment and Accessories sections you should be able to find all the information on astrophotography that you could want. And if not you can always post questions.

            2. Ben, you are a polymath! I forgot you were quite the photographer along with everything else. I am not surprised you have trouble finding time for it all. Rather nice problem to have, though. 🙂

  1. Sigh.

    I was on Ocracoke Island this year the night of the Persied shower. It was a new moon.

    Rained like hell that night and the next.

    1. That’s a real shame. Ocracoke is lovely.

      It’ll be really cold for us here in NC. About 16 with wind. OK, so that might not sound so bad to some of you, but it’s unusual for Dec here.

  2. Not only are we getting some of the coldest weather here in Southern Ontario, but those clouds will be preventing us from this show, as well. Too bad.

  3. Clear skies and mild temperatures in Southern California. I just went outside for a smoke and counted eight within ten minutes, all emanating from the radiant. Looking forward to midnight …

  4. Ooh, ooh, ooh!! It actually cleared up here (SW Michigan) & I saw 9 definite meteors in about 15 min. around 0100 hrs. (My eyes aren’t that good, so I wasn’t counting the brief peripheral “maybes”…)

    Would have stayed for more but it’s also 12 degrees F outside…

  5. I counted 11 shooting stars last night during about 20 minutes of stargazing (it was too cold for anything more, but the sky was perfectly clear). One of them flashed beautifully right before it disappeared. Thanks for providing information about the timing of the meteor shower so that I didn’t miss it this time!

  6. First thank you Dr. Coyne for reminding me about this. As a result I popped out and took a 1 minute exposure of a spot of sky, near Gemini. Then I returned to bed it being almost 5 AM.

    The frame is full of meteors. Dozens, of which I saw four at the time with my unaided eyes. People looking from really dark skies must have had a hell of a show.

    I’ve shoved a somewhat noisy copy onto my otherwise pointless blog.

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