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Geminid Meteor Shower 2018

The Geminid meteor shower is one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year and it is active during the period from early Dec to mid – Dec. The peak is expected to occur at about 8:30 pm on Dec 14th, with a Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 120. The radiant of this shower will rise above the horizon in the northeast at about 7:30 pm and reach the zenith at about 2:30 am during the peak. As the first quarter Moon will come on that day, the Moon will set at around 11:30 pm. Citizens may observe the meteor shower from the night of Dec 14th till before sunrise. For further information about places for observation, please refer to an article entitled "Recommended Stargazing Sites in Hong Kong" in the Apr – Jun 2016 issue of our newsletter on the website of the Space Museum.

Radiant of the Geminids
The position of radiant of the Geminids

The occurrence times of maxima are as follows:

Time of maximum (Hong Kong time) Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR)
14 December at 8:30 p.m. 120

(Source: International Meteor Organisation)

The above chart shows changes in the Zenith Hourly Rate of the Geminid meteor shower last year. The peak of the meteor shower was in the small hours of Dec 14th and the whole shower lasted for more than twenty days.

Here are some tips for watching the Geminids:

  1. Despite the recent advances in the theory of prediction, the time and number of meteors at the maxima may still have substantial deviation. For those who would like to perform scientific observation, it is advised to keep watchful eyes on the sky 1 to 2 days before and after the predicted maxima.
  2. The constellation Gemini will rise in the northeast at about 8 p.m. At 2:00 a.m., it will be around the zenith.
  3. Although the radiant will be in constellation Gemini, meteors do not necessarily appear there. A distance between 40 to 60 degrees away is optimal. Therefore, an observation site with unobstructed view is essential.
  4. Although traveling to the countryside can definitely appreciate more, dimmer meteors, city stargazer may be restrained from doing so by traffic, unstable weather, work or school on the next day. An open place next to your house with unobstructed view is also desirable.
  5. Basically, meteors can be appreciated by naked eyes and no telescope is required. You should bring along with you a star-map, a red torch, a deck chair and a sleeping bag or blanket.
  6. You may capture the image of Geminids with a camera. Basic equipment includes a camera with long time exposure function ('Bulb' shutter). Camera lens should be focused to infinity with maximum aperture. Then point the camera to Gemini or neighbour constellations for a 5-minute exposure time at an ISO value higher than 400 and try your luck.