The Geminid meteor shower 2012 should be a good one for Ankeny if the weather forecast holds up, but cloudy skies could block some of the show.
Like the Perseids meteor shower 2012 in August, what you see will depend a lot on the weather when the peak hits, Dec. 13 and 14.
The good news: NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.
The bad news: So far, the extended forecast for Ankeny calls for partly cloudy skies on Dec. 13th and mostly cloudy skies on Dec. 14.
Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13 and 14, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin – its outer covering of ice – after too many close encounters with the sun.
Tips for watching from Earthsky.org:
- Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky. In Ankeny, you might trying finding a clearing near Saylorville Lake, which boasts plenty of wide open and dark spaces.
- Know your dates and times: Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Dec. 14.
- Where to look: The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.
- What to bring. You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable. Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time – and hope.