Eye on the sky for Geminid meteor shower/Brian Hess

The snow this year is really starting to pile up. If you’ve attempted to hike off the beaten path you have probably found that the need for snowshoes is warranted. The snow in places is easily over knee high. It doesn’t look like there is going to be a break in this weather any time soon, but if there is, be sure to check out the sky!

Friday and Saturday will be the peak of the annual Geminids meteor shower. They are one of the bigger meteor showers of the year in the northern hemisphere ranking in with the Perseids, which occur in August. Geminids typically peak around the 13th or 14th of December and each year they appear to be intensifying in occurrence of meteors. Recently there have been recordings of 120 to 160 meteors per hour.

They are named the Geminids because they appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. The Geminids are one of only two meteor showers that do not originate from the path of a comet but are believed to be the result of the path of an asteroid. The other shower is known as the Quadrantids.

With snow in the forecast, chances of a clear sky are slim, but if we get one, this is one of the best meteor showers to see.

Recently there was another event that occurred in the sky worth noting. A comet, known as comet ISON, or C/2012 S1, made a dash by the sun. The comet was discovered last September in an observatory near Kislovodsk, Russia. Some early predictions by some astronomers were claiming this to be the comet of the century, being as bright or brighter than the moon. I was eagerly following the progression of this comet and wanting to write about it, but as the year went on, the predictions were becoming less hopeful.

On Nov. 14, the first reports of the comet observed by the naked eye, without the use of magnification, were recorded. It continued to be visible but only during the early dawn then was drowned out by the light of the sun. This comet was known as a sungrazing comet, as it passed within approximately 724,000 miles from the sun. Unfortunately, it is not believed to have survived its encounter with our sun. As it made its pass of the sun on Thanksgiving Day, the Comet ISON Observing Campaign recorded its disintegration. The comet is believed to have vanished by Dec. 2. There is still some speculation that there are remains that have survived the pass but no observable evidence has been recorded to this date.