Posted by: T. Boyd | December 13, 2010

The Geminid meteor shower is tonight! (Dec. 13-14)

The geminid shower is tonight – this article says it has become maybe the best annual “shooting star” show.  It comes from the asteroid Phaethon, they think – it may be the core of a “dead” comet.  This is a space rock about 3 miles in diameter that has a 3 year orbit around the sun.  In Richmond it is supposed to be partly cloudy after midnight and this will be after the moon sets, so maybe I can see something.

Let me  know if you see any.


  1. E-mail comments:
    From D.P.:
    Went out at around 1 AM and looked around for about 10 minutes but did not see anything, but we do have a fair bit of trees around us. Thankfully, we were warmer here in Williamsburg than you – it was 20 deg F.

    Thanks for the heads up.
    Boyd replies to D.P.:
    That’s good that you tried. Were you alone? Hope the others stayed in bed. 🙂
    Long ago, when at Randolph-Macon College, I used to drag the family to the observatory to see something special – I think I was the only one excited. Andrew and David would take a quick glance and say, “O.K.” and then be ready to go home, or play with the dental chair they had in there. Leslie was always a good sport; but in the latter years, she says, “No thanks…” LOL
    From S.T.:
    Wow! That’s awesome, Boyd! Congratulations.
    From L.W.:
    “I viewed the shower at 5:30 this morning and saw a small fireballl around then – I expected it to make a noise! Still impressive though”
    From D.S.:
    is there another one tonite, fell asleep, I bet you it was awsome to see.The Heavens declare thy rightousness, great is the Lord in all the earth.
    Boyd replies:

    Usually a meteor shower lasts for several days with the peak given as the best time. Last night was the predicted peak, but I don’t know how sharp the maximum is for Geminids. Let me search to see. says this:

    Beginning in early December, the Geminid meteor shower reaches its zenith on the nights of December 13 and 14, with a predicted peak just after midnight on December 14 on the US East Coast (or about 9PM Pacific time on December 13).

    5 UT (or Greenwich Mean Time) on December 13th is predicted as Geminid prime time viewing over Europe. In North America, Canada and US East Coast residents will have the best viewing that night into the wee hours on the 14th, but as Geminids are a “long tail” event, expect additional views growing less spectacular several days or nights after the peak.

    While the Geminids have been comparatively a non-event in the last century, they have grown more spectacular in the recent past and this year is no exception. Even with a quarter moon providing less than optimum viewing in 2011, watch for a clear view (weather depending) of up to 140 meteors an hour at its peak.

    So it sounds like tonight might also produce some. Anytime after the moon sets will be good. It will set an hour later tonight, at about 12:40 a.m. local time. The best way is to bundle up really well, lay back in a reclining lawn chair and just look up. You can keep your eyes glued to one spot, or move them around – if there is a bright one, your peripheral vision may catch it. The dimmer ones will be seen best at the center of your vision. Just have fun and you will learn the tricks.

    Give me a report after you do it.

    From S.H.:
    Boyd, I was out lastnight coming back to Richmond down 64 coming near the airport.. I was on the phone talking to a friend and I had to stop and say Holy Smokes… I saw this large bright light just fly by, large rail behind it, and this thing was moving at a speed way to fast to be a plane, then luckily another one 5 seconds later, same exact thing,,,, I have seen a shooting star so to speak, but this was awesome!
    From D.D.:
    I enjoy the Perseids – on the beach! Last night was a bit crisp, but I had to get up at 0400 so I took a peek outside. Put a couple of logs in the woodstove before I went out, and was pretty impressed by their warmth when I came back in. Nothing in the sky to report.
    Boyd replies:
    Good, S.H. D.D, sorry – I don’t think it was a real shower, but there must have been some real good fireballs. What approx. time, S.H., did you see them?
    S.H. replies:
    Boyd, it was about 11:30 or 11:45pm [EST]

  2. I saw one! A bolide (fireball) at 0112 EST on 14Dec2010. Got out in the 19 deg. F. weather – crystal clear sky – watched for 15 minutes under bright city lights, bright enough to read by. But still could count 6 of the 7 sisters in the Pleades.

    I was about to give up, when I saw a nice, bright fireball with a streak about 30 deg. long, heading ENE away from Gemini which was directly overhead. A few scattered clouds were drifting in from the west, but otherwise, very clear.

    I had just finished reciting Psalm 19 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork…” Praise Him!

  3. Boyd,
    Thanks for the heads up to the meteor shower.
    How’s Richmond?
    Let us King George folks know how your doing.

    • Thanks, David. Love Richmond, but still living out of boxes.

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