Chance of Geminid Meteor Sightings Above Oregon Coast, Portland Tonight
The Geminid Meteor Shower reaches its peak tonight, just after midnight until the early hours of dawn on Sunday.
Jim Todd, planetarium manager of Portland's OMSI, said the last-quarter Moon rises near midnight and obscures fainter meteors, but forecasters expect the shower to peak with as many as 120 meteors per hour.
If you miss them tonight, however, they will be around until December 18. By that time they will have slowed to about one an hour, but they will be lively for a night or two.
“This is one of the major meteor showers of the year,” Todd said. “You can see Geminids anywhere in the sky and from anywhere on Earth. They will trace their path back to a point in the constellation Gemini near the star Castor. If possible, look just after dark for a few Geminids as they enter the atmosphere at a shallow angle and burn slowly across the sky. “
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid with unusual characteristics in that its orbit looks more like that of a comet than an asteroid, and has been referred to as a "rock comet." Recent studies done by a NASA spacecraft show dust trails and the asteroid actually ejecting dust. Scientists think it's possible that the Sun’s heat is causing fractures such as mud cracks in a dry lake bed. This year, Earth is moving deeper into the debris stream of rock comet 3200 Phaethon.
The best place to observe the Geminid meteor shower is somewhere dark, away from light pollution, and with the moon out of the field of vision. The less light visible, the more brilliant the meteor shower will be.
Todd said getting out of city lights will give you a better view. Only the brightest ones will show up in the city, and then they will be farther and fewer in between. This will not be a problem along the Oregon coast, but Portland and other inland Oregon residents will want to get a bit farther into rural areas.
Todd said in order to photograph the annual event, a digital camera mounted on a tripod helps to steady the images that swiftly move across the sky. A quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of Geminid "prime-time" will also guarantee that you'll catch something. Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.
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