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Spectacular Geminid Meteor Showers Coming to Oregon Coast, Washington Coast

Published 11/23/22 at 8:29 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Spectacular Geminid Meteor Showers Coming to Oregon Coast, Washington Coast

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – From early December through about the 17th, an event of a cosmic scale will be taking place above the Washington coast and Oregon coast. The Geminids will be showing off then, a meteor shower that has its peak on December 13 and 14 this year, 2022. (Above: Manzanita and a shooting star, Oregon Coast Beach Connection photo)

This is one of the most popular meteor showers around much of the world, and if perfect conditions are available you could see as many as 120 fireballs per hour. However, this year the two peak nights happen to have a fairly bright moon, which will overpower many of them.

Even so, getting away to the Oregon coast or Washington coast – where there's little to no light interference – can prove fruitful. Astronomers still believe you should be able to see quite a few of them, in spite of the moon - if skies are clear. They start not long after sunset, and in the middle of the night the moon sets, giving you better chances in the a.m. hours.


Bandon at night, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

Jim Todd, with Portland's OMSI, told Oregon Coast Beach Connection the Geminids are one of the most spectacular of any given year, with very bright shooting stars that also have intense colors. Often, you'll see them in deep, rich greens.

The Geminids have already started, actually, beginning on November 19. They are most active between December 4 and 17, but are still around until Christmas Eve, December 24.

Visibility on the Washington coast or Oregon coast is always dependent on weather conditions, and even with clear skies there may well be a prominent ocean mist in the air.

Todd said the Geminids are from something rather unexpected: an asteroid rather than a comet. They come from pieces of the 3200 Phaethon asteroid, which has an unusual orbit that resembles that of a comet, taking about 1.4 years to orbit our sun. Because of this it's often called the “rock comet” by astronomers.

In 2009, NASA's STEREO spacecraft examined the dust trail of 3200 Phaethon, providing data that indicated there was once a muddy lake bed on the rock. It is dry now, but when it has close encounters with the sun the asteroid is heated up and starts dropping particles behind that eventually hit the Earth.

The meteor shower was first reported in the early 1800s, but was not a big deal then. It only produced 10 to 20 meteors an hour. Over the centuries it's greatly picked up its pace.

Higher vantage points along the Oregon coast or Washington coast may be a better spot to see them, if weather cooperates. Getting above any ocean mist will be helpful. Areas like Neahkahnie Mountain at Manzanita, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, or even some of the higher pullouts surrounding towns like Port Orford or Bandon will be excellent possibilities.

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Bandon at night, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

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