The peak viewing from the Geminid meteor show is expected between 1 and 3 a.m. Dec. 14. Photo by the American Meteor Society.

Spectacular astronomical show set to sparkle

Geminid meteor show will light up nighttime sky Dec.13 and 14.

While Christmas lights are sparkling in many neighbourhoods, the skies above are promising to shine as the Geminid meteor show is expected to peak in the evening and overnight hours of Dec.13 and 14.

A couple of warm blankets, a pillow and perhaps a hot chocolate is all that is needed to watch what promises to be a spectacular show in the winter sky this week, notes Vancouver Island physics instructor Jennifer Fallis Starhunter.

“The neat thing about this one is that with most meteor showers, the earth passes through the dust bits when a comet passes – they come through the atmosphere and burn up,” said the North Island College instructor.

“This is actually not a comet tail, but an asteroid orbiting the sun. It’s got a bit of a wonky orbit and leaves stuff behind that is different then comet dust – it’s slightly brighter material.”

The asteroid takes about 1.4 years to orbit around the sun, and the event is considered to be one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year.

Starhunter explains the meteor shower owes its name to the constellation Gemini from which the meteors radiate.

She adds the chances of seeing the shower are quite good on the mid-to-north Island, as the constellation rises earlier than in the south.

“It rises around 5:30 p.m., and we can see the rate of meteors increase as the constellation gets higher in the sky. At 10:30 p.m., it will be due east, halfway up around 45 degrees.”

She adds at its peak (between 1 and 3 a.m.), there should be around 120 meteors an hour that are visible, or about two meteors a minute in complete darkness. In the fringes of a city or where there is light pollution, Starhunter says to cut that number in half.

“What’s really good this year as compared to last year, is that we don’t have a full moon. This year, we have a waning crescent moon – it’s smaller and it doesn’t rise until 5 a.m.”

To get the maximum viewing experience, she suggests waiting at least 20 minutes for eyes to adapt to complete darkness, and to use either a red-coloured flashlight or place a red balloon over a flashlight for any additional light.

“The size of (the meteors) are only millimeters in size; it’s amazing to think that we can see something so small.”

Just Posted

Hospital’s Chief of Staff asks residents for help containing COVID-19

Invermere & District Hospital Chief of Staff says COVID-19 cases here, caution and care needed

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

MP Morrison touts non-partisan effort to provide relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The federal government has announced a slew of economic initiatives for those impacted by the pandemic

Burning restrictions to lower risk for COVID-19

Province issues burning restrictions to help everyone breathe easier

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read