The Geminid meteor shower was in full swing when this image was taken from Arizona's Kitt Peak National Observatory.
This week's Geminid meteor shower, one of the year's best sky shows, has been living up to expectations — as demonstrated by the photos you've sent in. We asked you to share your Geminid gems with Nightly News, and we're posting a sampling of your submissions right here. You can still send your photos to us here, and we'll add a selection to the gallery.
One of the choicest gems was sent in by David Harvey, who works at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. "It was a great shower," Harvey told me today. "We're having a warm spell here in Arizona, and it was perfectly clear."
Harvey got the picture you see above by setting up his camera at the observatory and taking a series of time exposures over the course of the night. "I would see dozens of meteors ... well over a hundred an hour," Harvey said.
That fits right in with other reports about the Geminids: Chris Peterson of Colorado's Cloudbait Observatory said on the Meteorobs mailing list that "this year's shower was very impressive, reaching a peak visual rate of about 120 meteors per hour." The International Meteor Organization recorded rates of 80 or more meteors per hour leading up to last night's expected peak.
Matt Freechack created this picture by pointing his camera north from Lake Odessa, Mich., for a 13-minute exposure. The curved arcs are star trails, and the straight lines are meteor streaks.
Two other Geminid pictures were sent in by Matt Freechack. The first is the result of a 13-minute camera exposure, looking north from Lake Odessa, Mich., at 3:20 a.m. today. "If you look closely, you can see 18 meteor trails," he wrote. But to look that closely, you'll have to peer at this enlarged view.
Freechack's last meteor of the night shows up at upper right in this snapshot, taken just before 7 a.m. looking south from Grand Rapids, Mich.
Want to see the meteors for yourself? Even though the peak has passed, you can still spot some gems tonight. The best time for viewing comes after midnight, when the world is turning directly into the stream of cosmic grit left behind by Phaeton, a highly unorthodox asteroid. Try to find a vantage point far from city lights, where skies are clear and you have a nice, wide view of the night sky. Although the Geminids appear to emanate from the constellation Gemini, they can flash in any area of the sky.
Be sure to bundle up and get comfortable — for example, in a lounge chair or winter sleeping bag. And give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness. If you want to take pictures, here's some advice from SpaceWeather.com.
You're not likely to see more than 100 meteors per hour tonight. In fact, Harvey isn't even going to try repeating his photographic feat. "Looks like the weather might be changing here," he told me, "and the peak is fairly steep. Tonight probably won't get more than 30 to 40 an hour."
But maybe you'll get lucky tonight. If you capture a gem of Geminid on camera, please share it with us.
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