The Geminids Meteor Shower Is Coming And We're In For A Treat
It's one of the best meteor showers of the year, and it's happening on Saturday night.
The Geminids meteor shower has been lighting up our skies for most of December, but Saturday will be the peak of the show.
So named because it looks to be coming from the direction of the constellation of Gemini, the meteor shower happens annually when Earth passes through the trail left behind by the 3200 Phaethon.
Eleanor Sansom, from the Space Science Technology Centre at Curtin University, told 10 daily that the meteor shower's parent body, 3200 Phaethon, is just as interesting.
"Most of our meteor showers come from comets, normally made from ice, gas and dust," she said.
"But 3200 Phaethon is interesting because there is still debate about if it is an old comet that has died or an asteroid that isn't active."
3200 Phaethon is also different from other asteroids we usually see, because unlike others that travel all the way to Pluto and beyond, this one only travels to between Mars and Jupiter.
What Is The Geminids Meteor Shower?
As the Earth passes through the trail left behind by 3200 Phaethon, the remnants of it burn up as it enters our atmosphere.
While we're used to seen the occasional shooting star (which is caused by particles -- sometimes as small as a grain of rice -- burning up as it enters the atmosphere), Sansom said the Geminids is "awesome" because of the amount of debris.
"The Geminids has been known to have a meteor rate of 120-150 an hour," she said.
Unfortunately, this year won't be as prolific and will be closer to a rate of 50 an hour because of a full moon impacting the sight of lighter meteors.
But, there's hope for next year Sansom said, because it will be a new moon therefore allowing more meteors to be seen in the darker sky.
How Can We See The Geminids?
The best viewing time will begin at about 3am on Sunday, and peak just before 6am.
"All those shooting stars will look like it's coming from the constellation Gemini and it's probably around 25 degrees above the horizon," Sansom said.
"It will change direction as the sky rotates around."
For those who need a little bit of help locating the best spot, an app developed by the Desert Fireball Network shows which direction to look at for the best view.
The Desert Fireball Network is a research team at Curtin University that partners with other facilities around the world to capture shooting stars and meteors that enter our atmosphere.
Cameras are located 100 to 150 kilometres apart as part of the partner networks and are used to triangulate where a meteor may have landed.
Early Shooting Star In The NSW
NSW was treated to a shooting star between Mount Stromlo and Boorowa earlier in the week.
Sansom, Leader of the Desert Fireball Network, said the "pretty bright" shooting star was visible in the sky for five to six seconds.
It is hoped it was big enough to have survived the atmosphere and landed on Earth.
"It was very similar, in terms of, how it came in through the atmosphere, how bright it was, what angle it was, to a one of the rocks we have recovered in Lake Ayre back in 2015.
One of DFN's partners, Australian National University is using its cameras to try and locate where it may have landed.