Meteors result from particles of dust causing the atmosphere to glow as the particles enter the upper atmosphere of the Earth. Following over a century of searching, astronomers in 1983 determined that the parent body for the debris that causes the Geminids is the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This is a bit unusual since most meteor showers are caused by debris from comets, not asteroids. Nevertheless, as Phaethon orbits the Sun, it sheds dust particles that remain as a trail of debris in its path. Since the Earth encounters this trail of debris at the same point in space each time it makes its annual revolution around the Sun, we observe the Geminids on the same date each year, around December 13-14.
In 2011 the Geminids should reach a peak of about 120 meteors per hour about 1 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 14. The Geminid Meteor Shower is one of the more reliable showers and we should see some Geminids for a couple of mornings before the 14th and a morning or two afterwards. Successful observing of the Geminids can start as early as 10 p.m. and continue until dawn as the constellation of Gemini the twins rises higher in the sky. One should observe from a clear, dark location with a good horizon. Unfortunately, this year that will not be possible. With Full Moon on the 10th we will still have a bright waning gibbous moon in the skies. The Moon rises in Brevard about 8:30 p.m. on the 13th and will be up the remainder of the night. Thus, its light will interfere with observations of fainter meteors in the predawn skies.
However, if you wish to give it a try; look to the northeast to find the meteors appearing to radiate out of the constellation of Gemini the twins. Binoculars or telescopes are not needed to observe meteors.
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