Geminid meteors set to light up chilly December night sky

Saturday, December 8, 2012
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— Christmas trees are shining on every corner. Hanukkah begins tonight, with menorah candles to brighten homes and hearts. But if you really want to see a spectacular December light show, you might just go outdoors and look into the dark night sky.

The Geminid meteor showers will light up the heavens late on Thursday and early on Friday. If the skies are clear, this year’s event could be extra special.

“The Geminids is one of the best showers of the year, comparable to the better-known Perseids,” says Alan French, president of Albany Area Amateur Astronomers. “This year, the moon will be new, so moonlight will not interfere.”

The best time to see the bright streams of cosmic debris will be between 1 and 3 a.m. that night.

Watching for meteors is easy; anyone can do it, French says.

“They just need to find a dark site away from city lights with a good view of the night sky. A comfortable lawn chair, plenty of warm clothes and blankets and a hot beverage are recommended. Company is nice, too.”

Meteors are usually best seen in the very early morning hours, says Janie Schwab, executive director of the Dudley Observatory on Nott Terrace in Schenectady.

“You need to be able to see as much of the sky as possible, so you don’t use a telescope.”

Schwab suggests that potential viewers set the alarm clock and go outside to see if the skies are clear.

“If not, go back to bed. If it is clear, get the kids up, wear lots of clothes and enjoy,” she says.

If you don’t want to disturb your slumber, you could see some meteors beginning as early as 9 or 10 p.m., says French.

“The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but Geminids will all point back toward Gemini, which will be in the eastern sky early in the evening.”

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