This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
The weather Thursday night in Longmont is predicted to be nearly perfect for viewing the Geminid meteor shower, which peaks tonight but will be visible Friday night and into the weekend.
The Geminids are a spectacular meteor shower with rates of over 120 meteors per hour in the past, which makes them the most active meteor shower of the year. And that rate seems to be steadily increasing since it was first observed in 1862. While the best time to see the most number of meteors will be the early hours of the morning, between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., there will be much to see earlier. Earlier meteors, called “earth grazers”, tend to be brighter and last longer than later ones, according to David Samuhel of the Accuweather Astronomy Blog.
Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the debris field of a comet, this one from a unique rock comet called 3200 Pheathon. As pieces of this debris come crashing through the Earth’s atmosphere, they are seen streaking across the sky as they ignite and vaporize.
How to view meteor showers
-Find a location away from most of the city’s light pollution. Luckily, in Longmont we don’t have to drive too far out. Maybe just find a spot on a quiet back road to spend an hour looking at the sky.
-Lay back in a lounge chair or blanket or bundled in a sleeping bag.
-Take a wide view of the sky. Though the meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini, you don’t have to concentrate on a particular area of the sky.
-Once you have settled in, don’t look at your phone or any bright lights while trying to view the meteors. You need to let your eyes adjust to the dark for maximum meteor viewing.
-Bundle up, bring hot cocoa and enjoy!
For more information about the Geminid Meteor shower, visit Earthsky.org.
Are you passionate about amateur astronomy? If so, check out the Longmont Astronomical Society.