Stargazing

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

People who are interested in astronomy and the night sky are in for a treat in the next day or two as the Geminid meteor shower passes overhead on December 13-14.

To be found in the constellation of Gemini, hence the name, it is thought to be caused by the remains of an extinct comet and has only been visible for the last 150 years or so – an infant in astronomical terms. It is also thought to be growing more intense as the years pass.

We read that in 2009 the peak date occurs two days before a new moon, making for ideal viewing conditions, so this really is an occasion not to be missed.

This is a great excuse for a night walk, since you need to be away from urban and suburban streetlighting to really enjoy the show. Night is a wonderful time to be out and about in the countryside, listening to wildlife darting about woods and hedgerows, as long as you exercise a bit of common sense and care.

For example, making sure you don’t fall into the nearest ditch, or scare householders near footpaths into thinking you’re a burglar. But, in these days of obsessive caution about everything, it can be deeply refreshing.

You also hear a fair bit of activity with shotguns on occasion, but that’s a whole different story that has nothing to do with astronomy.

To learn more about the Geminids and how to see them, visit their Wikipedia page with timing information for those hoping to catch them in the UK available here.

Plus, you can pick up some viewing tips here and here. Happy stargazing.

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Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow - Thoreau