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Monday, December 14, 2009


Geminid Report, Monday 14 December 2009

Every meteor shower has its own character. Outside of storm years, with the Leonids you are waiting, waiting, waiting for for a meteor and when you have finally decided to go to bed WHOOSH an amazing fireball would zoom over your head and you would wait ages to see another one like that.

The Geminids are more sedate, there is a more or less steady stream of bright but not spectacular meteors with relatively short burns. Very few have you whipping your head around to follow them. In fact until quite late the brightest meteor I saw was a sporadic, but a nice -3 Geminid came in and beat it.

The sky was as dark as it gets from my backyard, with a limiting magnitude of 5.5, the night was cool but still. Mars glowered above the horizon and the Pleaides glowed like fireflies in a net. A very pleasant backdrop for watching meteors. Observing note, when picking up your notepade and pencil (to record your observations) from the darkened office by touch, make sure that your children's coloured pencils are far away, otherwise you will do all your note taking in hard to see/read pale green.

Overall in an hour, before sheer exhaustion drove me inside, I saw 16 Geminids - around one every 5 minutes. Slightly less than I was expecting but not shabby for a suburban site (and better than predicted by the flux estimator), I was never kept waiting impatiently for a meteor. I also saw 4 sporadic meteors. Most of the meteors were magnitude 1 or less, with short trains. It was a bit like watching fireflies.

At the moment, the reported rates for the Geminids is coming in at about half the predicted level, although the reports haven't covered the peak. Some people have been reporting pretty good rates though. Spaceweather has a Geminid meteor Gallery which looks pretty nice. Some nice photos from Roger Groom in WA here, and an IceinSpace thread here.

What did you see? The rates for the Geminid meteors are predicted to increase over the next few years, so keep an eye on them.

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I got up at 3:30am to view the Geminds and saw quite a few from Flagstaff Hill SA. Some VERY bright ones with nice long tails that lasted a while. I went in at 4:45am and probably saw about a dozen. :)
Under fantastic dark skies, no light sources and unobstructed view on the road 6kms north of Tarlee, we counted 107 between 2-3.20am :)
I saw about ten meteors from my hot tub in Bend Oregon from 11:00 to 11:30 last night, including several bright ones.
Fantastic. Great to see everyone getting a decent meteor fix. Wish I could have been at Tarlee.
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