December 13th/14th (Peak)
Astronomy is one of the few areas where amateurs can make a real contribution to science. You might think that you need to be an ‘expert’ to contribute data which will have real scientific value. This could not be further from the truth.
This year Astronomy Ireland is asking everyone to take part in a Nationwide Geminid Watch, where you simply count the number of meteors – or shooting stars – you see. You can do this safely with all the family from outside your own home. Best viewing is the 13th/14th December.
No special equipment is needed, and you can look anywhere in the sky!. As Earth moves through clouds of dust leftover from comets, the particles fall into our atmosphere and burn up, creating spectacular streaks of light in the sky, known as meteors or shooting stars. This shower is named after the constellation Gemini, from which the meteors appear to come from in the sky. If you trace back the path of a Geminid, you will find that it appears to come from a point in the south east.
To take part in the Nationwide Geminid Watch, simply go outside and look up! We want you to count meteors every night that you can for one week before the peak and one week after – from December 6th to 21th. Count how many meteors you see every 15 minutes (if possible, start on the hour or quarter past the hour), and note it down. Then email email@example.com with your report. Please include your name, location, and the night you observed. For example, a normal report would be as follows:
Name: Joe XXXXX
Location: Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Night: Monday night and Tuesday morning 11:30 – 11:45: 12 meteors
11:45 – 00:00: 8 meteors
00:00 – 00:15: 17 meteors
Email your meteor report to: firstname.lastname@example.org
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A METEOR AND A SATELLITE*
Meteors will ‘zip’ across the sky in one second or less. Don’t confuse them with man made satellites which take a minute or more to cross the sky. There are so many satellites these days that you will probably see more of them than meteors. They are becoming a nuisance to be honest but fortunately meteors are hundreds of times faster than satellites so you won’t confuse the two. Satellites move at roughly the same pace that high flying aircraft cross the sky and we’re sure you have seen those.
Remember, the best nights to watch is December 13/14th, but you can observe on any night around this date. You also do not need a telescope or any special equipment to view the Geminids.
The Geminids will appear to originate from a point in the south east.