Sky gazers in the city and elsewhere in the country can watch a meteor shower display from Wednesday night till the early hours of December 14, if clouds and light pollution do not play spoilsport.
The Geminid meteor shower is expected to provide a celestial display and people will have to move out of the glare of city lights to a darker region, director, MP Birla Planetarium, Debiprosad Duari said on Tuesday.
Sky watchers should go to an open space and keep an eye on the sky and binoculars or telescopes will not be required to watch the celestial display, Duari said.
“This year the Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak on the night of December 13 and the early morning of December 14. The shower will start at around 10 pm on December 13 when the Gemini constellation will be visible in the north-eastern sky, a little above and right of the familiar Orion constellation,” Duari said.
The shower is predicted to be at its maximum at around 2am on December 14, when the Gemini constellation will be almost overhead and the number of meteors can reach up to 120 per hour, he said.
“Though the meteors tend to originate from the Gemini constellation, they can be observed from most parts of the sky. Since the meteors are relatively slow moving, the bright streaks of light will be easily visible and one does not need a binocular or telescope for enjoying the show while lying on an open ground away from city lights,” he said.
Rocks and dust particles from space that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids.
He said, “And those that streak through the atmosphere are called meteors. Generally, comets, which are chunks of ice having lots of dust come close to the Sun. By the Sun’s radiation, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet.
“If the Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a trail of debris of dust particles, the small dust particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere with considerable speed.”
By friction in the atmosphere, the particles then burn up and give rise to not only a single bright streak in the sky but numerous meteors called meteor showers, he elaborated.
In case of the Geminid meteor shower, so named as the meteors appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini, it is not a comet but an unusual asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983, the eminent scientist said.
Generally, the meteor shower associated with 3200 Phaethon, a 5.1km piece of rock, peaks around second week of December and some astronomers believe the asteroid may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into creating the meteor shower.