Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Geminid Meteors Peak December 13-14: Special Presentation at Flandrau

Flandrau Science Center News Release

2006 November 30

TUCSON, AZ - The forecast for the Geminid meteor shower this year is excellent due to the lack of moonlight. Often considered by many astronomers to be the best meteor shower of the year, it's expected that worldwide 30 to 60 (or more) shooting stars per hour will flash across the sky Wednesday night Dec. 13-14, weather permitting. Far fewer meteors will be seen from inner city or suburban locations, although some meteors will be bright and easily seen.

Southern Arizona, due to its clear, dark skies and warm temperatures, will probably be one of the best places in the United States to see this shooting star show. To best see the shower observers need dark skies, away from city lights. In the Tucson area sky gazers should expect to drive 30 minutes out of town to have the best view of the shower, barring cloudy weather. Good viewing areas can be found at the east end of Speedway at Saguaro National Park East and near the Tucson Mountains west of Tucson. The parking area at the east end of Speedway at Saguaro National Park East is a favored location for viewing as it does not have an open/close period and is open for meteor gazing (though no camping or cooking is allowed).

The best nights to view the shower will be Wednesday, December 13 into the morning of the 14th, although fewer shooting stars will be seen on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning (Dec. 11-12) and Thursday night/Friday morning (Dec. 14-15). Although meteors can be seen anywhere, viewers should start scanning the skies above the eastern, southern, and northern horizons and overhead after 9 p.m. Viewing can start as early as 8 or even 7 p.m., though lesser numbers of shooting stars will be seen. Most meteors will be seen after 9 p.m., especially from midnight until 2 a.m., when the constellation Gemini (hence the shower name) passes overhead. A waning crescent Moon, 33 percent illuminated, will rise at 1:47 a.m. but will not diminish viewing significantly.

To help the public learn about this meteor shower (and assist them in viewing it), Flandrau Science Center will offer a special presentation on the Geminids (and about meteor showers in general) by UA Steward Observatory astronomer Tom Fleming on Wednesday, December 13 at 7:30 p.m., in Flandrau's Star Theater. Flandrau's normally scheduled 8 p.m. sky show will be pre-empted by Dr. Fleming's talk. A short sky show about the Geminids, giving a realistic display of the night sky in the planetarium theater, will accompany Dr. Fleming's talk. The admission price for both will be $2.50. Free parking near Flandrau is widely available on local side streets, most surface lots, and in the Cherry Ave. Garage after 5 p.m. on The University of Arizona campus.

More information about the meteor shower and the night sky is available on Flandrau's "Astronomy News and Skywatcher's Guide" on the Internet at Flandrau also provides stargazing information its free Astronomy Newsline, at 520-621-4310.

This story was originally titled "The Geminid Meteors Peak on Dec. 13-14: Special Presentation at Flandrau".

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