How to Enjoy Tonight's Spectacular Meteor Shower
13 Dec 2017
Get ready for 120 shooting stars per hour in tonight's night sky. The Geminid meteor shower is the strongest and most spectacular meteor show of the year. The showers began on December 7th and the peak is expected to occur at about 2:30 p.m. tomorrow; however, tonight between 10pm and midnight is the recommended viewing time as the moon won't rise until after 3 am.
Where to Go and Where to Look
It's not going to be hard to catch a glimpse of the show, if you can find a dark place where clouds don't block your view of the east/north-east sky. Getting away from the city lights may be a challenge for most of us. The nearest areas may be the coastlines or mountain tops. Once there, just sit back and relax and wait for the show. You'll need about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Try to avoid looking at your phone. If you must use your phone, turn the brightness down to its lowest level. Binoculars and telescopes are not recommended as they'll just limit your view. If you can't see them tonight, don't worry, showers should still be visible for the next couple of days as well.
What to Expect
Most shooting stars appear as bright streaks in your peripheral vision and will last only a second or so, but the Geminid meteor shower is known for producing the occasional extremely bright, long-lasting trails. Note that it may take some time to develop and keep your night vision so don't lose hope if you don't see these right away.
Here are some tips provided by the Hong Kong Space Museum:
1. Despite the recent advances in the theory of prediction, the time and number of meteors at the maxima may still have substantial deviation. For those who would like to perform scientific observation, it is advised to keep watchful eyes on the sky 1 to 2 days before and after the predicted maxima.
2. The constellation Gemini will rise in the northeast at about 8 p.m. At 2:00 a.m., it will be around the zenith.
3. Although the radiant will be in constellation Gemini, meteors do not necessarily appear there. A distance between 40 to 60 degrees away is optimal. Therefore, an observation site with unobstructed view is essential.
4. Although traveling to the countryside can definitely appreciate more, dimmer meteors, city stargazer may be restrained from doing so by traffic, unstable weather, work or school on the next day. An open place next to your house with unobstructed view is also desirable.
5. Basically, meteors can be appreciated by naked eyes and no telescope is required. You should bring along with you a star-map, a red torch, a deck chair and a sleeping bag or blanket.
6. You may capture the image of Geminids with a camera. Basic equipment includes a camera with long time exposure function ('Bulb' shutter). Camera lens should be focused to infinity with maximum aperture. Then point the camera to Gemini or neighbour constellations for a 5-minute exposure time at an ISO value higher than 400 and try your luck.
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