After a days-long lead-up, tonight, December 13/14, 2013, is finally the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower, which means that tonight, more so than any before or after, should offer the most meteors streaking through the sky.
Every December, Earth passes through the stretch of space junk shed by a mysterious object called 3200 Phaeton, reaching the deepest concentration of debris tonight. According to some estimates, under ideal conditions (dark country skies), one can expect to see something in the range from 60-120 meteors per hour. The reason the meteors are called Geminids is because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini. The best time to view the shower is in the wee hours of the night.
Don't want to stay up that late? Don't worry, Gemini is up just about all night and will climb higher as the night progresses. However, unless one lives out in the country, the early post-midnight hours will probably involve Gemini being low in a light dome. To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of light polluted Cleveland and to the suburbs or, even better, the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference as this will eliminate glare from those pesky street/house lights to a large extent. Go here for more viewing tips. Feeling ambitious? Why not try photographing meteors?
Two things can ruin the meteor shower: clouds and the Moon. The clouds? Well, that's a regional thing. Check your local Clear Sky Clockto see what the clouds have in store for your location tonight. Good news: if its cloudy, you can always watch a live webcast!
Unfortunately, the Moon is going to be near Full at the time of the Geminids, which means some serious lunar glow most of the night. The good news is that the Moon won't be able to outshine the brightest of meteors, though. .
However, the Geminids being a once a year event, why not head out to see if you can spot some meteors, anyway?
As always, would-be sky watchers in the Cleveland area should be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you.
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