If you get excited about shooting stars, you're in for a treat. The famous Geminid meteor shower is due this weekend in Australia and we've wrapped up all the info you'll need to view the phenomenon for yourself. Here are the best times and locations to catch the celestial event with the naked eye.
At approximately 12am tonight, the 2019 Perseid Meteor Shower is set to wow the world. Many eyewitnesses will use the words "meteor", "meteorite", "comet" and "asteroid" interchangeably to describe the celestial event they're seeing. In reality, these are all completely different types of space rock. If you want to avoid a social faux pas tonight (or want to be the smarty-pants who corrects fellow stargazers), here's what sets each type apart.
What are the Geminid Meteors?
There are a number of meteor showers throughout the year but the Geminid promises to be the best and most visible of the lot. It usually peaks around mid-December every year with up to 120 meteors every year, according to NASA. They're described as being bright, fast and yellow in colour.
NASA explains that the meteors are comet particles and bits from asteroids but when the cluster moves past the sun, it leaves a trail of light, which can be visible during peak viewing times.
Where and when can I watch them?
Like all meteor showers, they are best viewed in the dead of night where there's limited light pollution. This means they'll be harder to see if you're trying to look for them near city and town areas where light pollution obstructs our view.
With the bushfire smoke still shrouding some areas of Australia's east coast, it will be a bit tougher to see than usual but depending on air quality, you should still be able to sneak a peak at one of our galaxy's greatest shows.
Those peak times in Australia will occur during Friday 13 December and Saturday 14 December in the wee hours of the night and early morning.
Between midnight and just before the sun begins to rise will be perfect viewing times and you won't need a telescope to see them.
According to the ABC, the best viewing times will be on the morning of Sunday 16 December at the following times:
- NSW: 5.40am
- Victoria: 5.40am
- Queensland: 4.40am
- Tasmania: 5.40am
- Canberra: 5.40am
- South Australia: 5.10am
- Northern Territory: 2.40am
- Western Australia: 2.40am
What am I looking for?
First, your eyes need to adjust. It's best to find a comfortable spot, away from any light pollution where you can lie down. Once your eyes adjusts to looking solely at the space wilderness, you'll soon become more sensitive to any meteors with trailing lights. Essentially, the meteor shower will look like a bunch of shooting stars trying to one-up their mates and you'll get a front row seat to it. It lasts for the full night with the best viewing times being around 2am AEDT when skies are darkest.
Below is an example of what you can expect. Happy stargazing!