ST. LOUIS – The Geminid Meteor Showers will light up the night sky this month. The must-see-show could bring more than 50 showers an hour during optimal times and conditions.
The meteor showers will take place between December 4 and December 17. The peak viewing takes place on December 13 into the morning on December 14.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says the Geminids are formed from rock materials that take longer to burn up than icy debris. They also move slower which allows for easier viewing.
There will be bright bursts radiating from the Gemini Twins constellation. Gemini rises earlier so you can start viewing around 9:00 p.m. MDC says the moon will be three-quarters full in mid-December which makes things harder to see but allows for darker skies in pre-dawn hours.
In the earlier part of the month, you can also view some planets while out looking for the meteor showers.
- On December 6th, the crescent moon will appear near Venus within 3 degrees in the early evening sky. Venus is the brightest planet.
- On December 7th, the crescent moon and Saturn are about 5 degrees apart. Saturn is a fainter planet with a gold color. If conditions are right, you can see its rings with a telescope during twilight, and may even see its largest moon, Titan,
- On December 8th, the moon approaches close to Jupiter, our largest planet. With clear conditions and a telescope, you may be able to see its four largest moons.
- On December 10th, look for the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn forming a nice row in the sky.
The MDC has this advice for prepping for a night of meteor spotting or stargazing:
- A blanket or sleeping bag spread on the ground can be a nice viewing location. A reclining outdoor lounge or camping chair is another option if you prefer to do your viewing off the ground.
- A pair of binoculars, perhaps ones you may already own, can offer a wondrous window on the universe. An ideal pair would be in the 7X50 or 10X50 range, but almost any will offer an enhanced view and allow you to see more stars than the naked eye.
- A planisphere is an excellent tool to aid in learning the stars and constellations. Several mobile apps are available to help you in finding constellations and other stellar events.
- When heading out to enjoy nature at night, always remember to dress in plenty of layers on cooler nights, prepared for at least 10 degrees cooler than the forecasted low.
- Using a red flashlight, either a red LED or a standard flashlight covered with red electrical tape, help preserve your night vision.