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Watching for the Geminid Meteor Showers

It’s 4am. I find myself on my town-home deck, waking up with a cup of coffee and the chill in the air. I normally get up from sleep at 4am but I don’t usually go outside at that time when it’s 18 degrees. Brrrr ….

Yet another night-time nature event I want to engage in. The Geminid meteor showers should be visible.The shower appears every year as Earth travels through the path of asteroid 3200 Phaethon. On a regular cycle, Phaethon gets close to the sun. The heat fractures it, throwing off bits and pieces of itself, which vaporize into what we’ve named as the Geminid meteors. This year it occurs December 13 and 14.

But that coincides with the moon being almost full and throwing off a lot of light. The best chances of seeing the meteor shower is after moonset and before sunrise. For me, that’s approximately 4am – 6am; a time where I’m usually awake anyway.

Tonight though, or this morning rather, my neighbors have their security lights and deck lights on. With the bright moon shining onto my yard, and several very bright house lights shining directly at me, it’s almost impossible to see anything in the sky. But as my eyes accustom to what’s left of the dark, I make out most of the Big Dipper. In my sub/urban setting, it’s the only constellation I can make out. Jupiter is visible. I notice a thin layer of clouds moving to the east, guaranteeing obscurity.

I manage to sit outside though, head craned back, eyes focused on the sky, for 20 minutes. No meteors. But I enjoyed the peacefulness and quiet of those hours. Now, I’m particularly grateful that I did the same thing last year, and did get to see one meteor. For a second, the flash of light creates an exclamation mark in the sky and then is gone. A blink, or looking ever so slightly in the wrong direction, and it’s missed.

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