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Geminid meteor shower 2019: Google Doodle celebrates spectacular cosmic display

google doodle

The Geminid meteor shower will soon light up the sky – and star gazers should prepare for one of the most spectacular displays of the year.

A Google Doodle will mark the event on Thursday by illustrating the meteor shower’s path through Earth’s atmosphere.

The shower – also referred to as the Geminids – is currently active and will be visible on 13 and 14 December.

Here is everything you should know to make the most out of this year’s spectacle:

1. It’s the most reliable meteor shower

There are several reasons that explain why the Geminids are so beloved, but one of the main factors is the display’s reliability.

It’s usually one of the strongest meteor shower of the year, as noted by the American Meteor Society – which currently displays the Geminids’ status as “active”.

The shower is “very consistent”, to the point that it’s the “most reliable shower of the year”, AccuWeather reported.

“Some argue it is actually increasing in intensity,” astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel told the website.

The key to the Geminids’ consistency is the celestial object that has triggered the meteor shower each year since the 1800s, which orbits the Sun every 550 days or so.

2. It’s named after the Gemini constellation

The Geminids’ name is no accident: once it enters Earth’s atmosphere, the meteor shower seems to be coming from the Gemini constellation.

In order to spot the Geminid meteor shower, you should thus be looking towards the Gemini constellation, which is well positioned from 10pm, the American Meteor Society explained.

This gives the Geminids a rare status as a major shower experiencing significant activity before midnight.

3. It’s also linked to a Greek god

So what exactly causes the Geminid meteor shower? A celestial object called 3200 Phatheon – which is also the son of the solar deity Helios in Greek mythology.

It belongs to the Apollo asteroid group, an ensemble of near-Earth asteroids.

As 3200 Phatheon, it is followed by a trail of debris. Earth passes through its trail each year, resulting in the display.

4. This year is a prime viewing time

Last year, the supermoon obscured the Geminids. Next year, a full moon might make it difficult to observe the spectacle – meaning now’s the time to step out to appreciate the meteor shower.

NASA recommends stepping out after 10:30pm and giving your eyes 30 minutes to adjust.

Then, the best way to spot meteors is to lie flat on your back – refrain from looking at your mobile phone to preserve your night vision – and wait until the show begins.

5. As many as 100 shooting stars are expected to light up the sky

The Geminids have an hourly rate of 120, the highest listed on the American Meteor Society’s calendar for meteor showers.

This means more than 100 shooting stars should appear – though NASA calls the figure a “theoretical maximum” and warns that it represents the experience of a “perfect observer” gifted with “perfect skies”.

People residing in suburbs can still expect to see about 30 or 40 meteors per hour, and those living in darker areas on the countryside will be able to spot a bit more than one shooting star per minute.

Bad news for people in large cities such as New York or San Francisco: they will see “practically nothing” due to light pollution, the agency warned.

Source: Independent