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Get ready for the best meteor shower of the year

Cast your eyes to the night sky this week and you could see one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year.

USQ astrophysicist Professor Jonti Horner said the Geminid Meteor Shower has already begun but is expected to peak this weekend - December 14 and 15.

And, the best thing is you won’t need special equipment to see it.

Professor Horner said there was a chance of observers seeing about 30 to 40 meteors per hour along the eastern coast of Australia.

“This time of year is my favourite because I have always been a mad meteor shower fanatic,” Professor Horner said.

“I love going out and observing them and the Geminids are known as the best and are visible in both the northern and southern hemisphere.

“The Geminids runs from December 4 to 17 but the best visibility and peak activity will be the late hours of the night (Saturday) to the early hours of the morning (Sunday).

“Now, if the Moon wasn’t interfering you could get rates of 50-60 shooting stars per hour,” Professor Horner said.

“But the Moon washes things out and this year it’s a full Moon. However, you should still see a shooting star every few minutes. The Geminids tend to give you very bright and very spectacular meteors, very frequently.”

What are the Geminids?

Professor Horner explains meteor showers as the dust and debris left behind by Solar system objects.

“As they go around the Sun they are shedding material and that material spreads out around their orbits,” he said.

“Essentially you get a tube of dust around the Sun. All the material in that tube is moving in the same direction. It comes into the Earth’s atmosphere and burns out.

“The meteors visible this weekend are from the asteroid – 3200 Phaethon.

“Every 1.4 years Phaethon crosses Earth’s orbit as it moves on its own elongated orbit around the Sun. And, every year, the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the asteroid in December.

“The point in the sky that these meteors come from is the constellation Gemini.”

How do I see the meteor shower?

Professor Horner said while you don’t need any sort of special equipment, you do need a few things to get the most out of the “meteor shower of the year”.

“You will definitely need to set your alarm clock. I suggest a few hours before dawn on Sunday morning and find as dark a sky as possible away from artificial lights,” he said.

Professor Horner said to look in the general north direction towards the constellation Gemini, which is near the more famous constellation, Orion.

“Relax and find a comfy place. Try and sit or lie down rather than stand up,” he said.

“Look at about 30 to 40 degrees up in the sky towards North. That is where you will get the best numbers between 1am and 4am Sunday morning.

“I would expect more than 15 meteors per hour but they will not appear like clockwork.

“Take a warm drink, wrap up and enjoy the show.”

green telescope with night sky behind it
“The Geminids runs from December 4 to 17 but the best visibility and peak activity will be the late hours of the night (Saturday) to the early hours of the morning (Sunday).