A major annual meteor shower, the Geminids, will be visible in Alabama starting December 4 and will continue through December 17.
The shower's peak is expected overnight from December 13 to 14. It is predicted to peak at about 150 visible meteors per hour.
Weather cooperating, it will be visible in Alabama.
This meteor stream gets its name because the meteors appear to radiate near the Gemini constellation.
In Alabama, the ideal time to start looking will be after 7:30 p.m. CT on the evening of December 13 (about two hours after the radiant rises above the northeastern horizon). The radiant will reach its highest in the sky around 2 to 3 a.m. After about 6 a.m. on December 14, the first wisps before dawn will begin to interfere.
Optimum conditions would be when the weather cooperates by being clear with no clouds or hazes and the radiant is high in the sky.
Tips for Alabama skywatchers:
Go to a place far from any light sources or urban light pollution and has a clear view of a wide expanse of the sky. Some meteors are faint, so you will tend to see more meteors from your peripheral vision (the "corner of your eye," which is why you need to view a large part of the sky).
Be sure to give your eyes plenty of time to adapt to the dark, ideally 35 minutes or more. The better your eyes are adjusted to the dark, the more chance you will have of seeing the meteors. Even a short exposure to light (from passing car headlights or checking your cell phone) will start the adaptation time over again.
By taking these steps, you will not need any special equipment to view the Geminid meteors, such as binoculars or telescopes. There is no need for protection for your eyes.
The Geminid meteors are caused by debris that enters the Earth's atmosphere at 78,000 miles per hour. The Geminids are different from other meteors because they emanate from asteroids rather than comets.
During the 2023 Geminids, there will be a free public viewing night at the University of Alabama's astronomy facility, Gallalee Hall. It will be on December 8. It includes a talk from 6:00-6:30 p.m.: "Infrared 'Eyes' on the Universe: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope" by Mustafa Muhibullah. The talk will be held in the Gallalee Hall main lecture hall in Room 227.
After the talk, there is public viewing from 6:30-8:30 p.m., observing from the Gallalee Hall rooftop observatory, viewing planets, star clusters and the Geminid meteors with Dr. Jeremy Bailin. This viewing is after the start of the Geminids on December 4 but before the peak on December 13-14.
No ticket or RSVP is needed for the UA viewing event.
Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected]
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