Supermoon, meteor shower wind up year’s night sky events

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Stargazers are in for a rare treat Wednesday evening as a supermoon coincides with the peak of the best meteor shower of the year.

The Geminids meteor shower is considered the “king of the meteor showers,” according to seasky.org, producing up to 120 meteors per hour at its peak.

The shower runs from Dec. 7-17 and peaks this year on the night of Dec. 13 and morning of Dec 14. While the light of the full moon will make the Geminid meteors harder to see, it should still be a good show.

“The Geminids are typically one of the best and most reliable of the annual meteor showers,” NASA officials state. “It’s usually one of the best opportunities for kids who don’t stay up late because it gets going around 9 or 10 p.m. local time.”

The Geminids originate from the comet 3200 Phaethon and appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini.

Wednesday’s supermoon is the last in a series of three occurring on Oct. 16, Nov. 14 and Dec. 14.

This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the “Full Cold Moon,” according to seasky.org. It has also been known as the “Full Long Nights Moon” and the “Moon Before Yule.”

A supermoon occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth and coincides with a full moon. They appear larger and brighter because the moon is closer to the Earth than usual, according to information from NASA.

Viewing tips

These tips from NASA.gov will make watching the Geminid meteor shower more enjoyable:

  • Get as far away from urban light pollution as possible. Find a location with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky.
  • Search for the darkest patch of sky you can find, as meteors can appear anywhere overhead.
  • Whether viewing from your front porch or a mountaintop, be sure to dress appropriately for cold overnight temperatures.
  • Bring something comfortable on which to sit or lie down while you look at the sky; plan to be patient and watch for at least half an hour. A reclining chair or pad will make it far more comfortable to keep your gaze on the night sky.
  • Put away the telescope or binoculars; they reduce the amount of sky you can see at one time and lower the odds that you’ll see a meteor. Instead, relax your eyes and don’t look in any one specific spot. Relaxed eyes will quickly catch any movement in the sky, and you’ll be able to spot more meteors. To preserve your night vision, avoid looking at cell phones or other lights.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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