Sky gazers and astronomy enthusiasts across India are in for a major treat. The annual Geminid meteor shower will dazzle the night sky on Wednesday, December 13 till the early hours of December 14
The meteor shower promises to provide a spectacular celestial display, if clouds and light pollution do not play spoilsport.
To fully enjoy the astronomical event, the Director, M P Birla Planetarium, Debiprosad Duari suggests moving out of the glare of city lights to a darker region.
"Sky watchers should go to an open space and keep an eye on the sky and binoculars or telescopes will not be required to watch the celestial display," Duari told PTI.
"This year the Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak on the night of December 13 and the early morning of December 14. The shower will start at around 10 pm on December 13 when the Gemini constellation will be visible in the north-eastern sky, a little above and right of the familiar Orion constellation," he informed.
The shower is predicted to be at its maximum at around 2 am on December 14, when the Gemini constellation will be almost overhead and the number of meteors can reach up to 120 per hour, he said.
"Though the meteors tend to originate from the Gemini constellation, they can be observed from most parts of the sky. Since the meteors are relatively slow moving, the bright streaks of light will be easily visible and one does not need a binocular or telescope for enjoying the show while lying on an open ground away from city lights," he said.
Rocks and dust particles from space which are about to collide with Earth's atmosphere are called meteoroids.
He said, "And those that streak through the atmosphere are called meteors. Generally, comets, which are chunks of ice having lots of dust come close to the Sun. By the Sun s radiation, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet.
"If the Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a trail of debris of dust particles, the small dust particles enter the Earth s atmosphere with considerable speed."
By friction in the atmosphere, the particles then burn up and give rise to not only a single bright streak in the sky but numerous meteors called meteor showers, he elaborated.
In case of the Geminid meteor shower, so named as the meteors appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini, it is not a comet but an unusual asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983, the eminent scientist said.
Generally the meteor shower associated with 3200 Phaethon, a 5.1 km piece of rock, peaks around second week of December and some astronomers believe the asteroid may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into creating the meteor shower.
With input from PTI