Up late? You could see Geminid Meteor Shower in NJ skies
New Jersey's skies will host the, Geminid meteor showers this week, and by all accounts, they will be pretty spectacular.
Paul Cirillo of the New Jersey Astronomical Association said the showers occur each December as the Earth passes through the debris field left by a passing asteroid. They're expected to peak on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
"They are called the Geminids because it appears that the meteors are coming out of the constellation Gemini, and Gemini is in the sky shortly after sunset," he said.
He said you can start watching the meteor shower as soon as it gets dark — "if it is a clear night and you have a dark spot, you should be able to see a good display."
Clear skies help for watching an astronomical event. But the moon matters too.
"And we hope that that is out of the way on those nights, and indeed it is," Cirillo said. "It will not be rising until about 1:30 or 2:30 on the mornings of (Dec.) 12 and 13. And even then it will only be a crescent, and that is ideal for meteor watching. Actually, we would prefer no moon in the sky. But a crescent moon is just fine."
Cirrillo said with a little luck, you could see over 100 Geminids an hour.
He said most of the meteors that you see are only the size of a grain of sand, and most meteor showers are from comet field debris. But the Geminids are debris from Asteroid 3200 Phaeton, which is about 3 miles wide and orbits the sun every 1.4 years.
The first recorded observation of the Geminids was in 1833.
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5