If the weather is clear, then late Monday night or early Tuesday morning you may be so lucky as to glance at the Geminids Meteor Shower. This yearly phenomenon produces over 100 comets in the night sky.
The Geminids are so aptly named because of their close proximity to the constellation Gemini, which comes from the Latin word for twins. However, the Geminids are not part of the Gemini constellation and are actually likely debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. Phaethon, in Greek mythology, was the son of the Sun god Helios.
It’s not just the namesake of the Geminids that creates confusion. Even astronomers continue to debate the origins of the Geminids themselves. Some think that a space rock collision with Phaethon is what created the debris that we observe as comets when viewing the Geminids. Others think the Geminids occurred due to a collision between Phaethon and the asteroid Pallas. Another explanation has more to do with Phaethon’s proximity to the sun – this hypothesis claims that as Phaethon approaches the Sun, the space debris heat up, producing the comets that we see as the Geminids.
Regardless, the Geminids, like the Perseid meteor shower, are one of the easiest meteor showers to view in the Northern Hemisphere. The Perseids are typically more popular since they reoccur each year around August. However, the Geminids will likely produce more comets and be easier to visualize in the sky. The only trade-off is the very chilly December weather that occurs during the Geminids viewing.
While the Geminids are easier to see than many other comets, the phase of the Moon during this time may make them difficult to observe. Some of the best viewings in the Kansas City region will likely be after the Moon has set, around 3 am in the morning of the 14th. However, visibility could be decent as early as 7 pm on the 13th. Before viewing, be sure to find a place far away from city lights, give yourself a good 30 minutes to acclimate your eyes to the night sky, and be sure to keep yourself cozy and warm.
For more info on viewing the Geminids, be sure to check out this helpful resource.
View the following titles, available in the KCKPL collection, for more information on asteroids, meteors, and other space objects: