UK Weather for Geminid meteor shower viewing Dec 13/14th 2018 and Comet Wirtanen

13th December 2018 07:47

UK Weather for Geminid meteor shower viewing Dec 13/14th 2018 and Comet Wirtanen

This week is this year's Geminid meteor shower. Will there be clear skies over the UK for a decent view, tonight's forecast included. The peak is tonight, the 13th/14th December but you might see 'shooting stars' on other evenings. Thursday 13th into Friday morning is when the highest number of meteor sightings is likely. Around 75 meteors could be seen per hour at the height of the show and if the skies are clear it’s quite a reliable show. Some years over 100 meteors per hour, originating from the constellation of Gemini, it’s bright star Castor in the east at this time of year. Too early in the evening and the constellation won’t be above the horizon, with the peak being around 2am

The Perseids in summer result in around 80 per hour again with bright meteors but with plenty of trains, the long streaks across the skies. The Geminds aren’t quite so dramatic, they are quick and bright but more numerous than say the Leonids back in November which gave around 10 per hour.

Actual cloud cover image from Wednesday afternoon 12th Dec 2018

This time of year is quite cold to be sitting out gazing at the sky. You have to wait and let your eyes adjust. Popping in and out of the house to warm up, means you could miss out, but also that your eyes will need to start again with the light adjusting. This is quite a good one to watch just not at an ideal time of year

The actual source of the shooting stars is a stream of debris left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon, making this one of the only major showers not to originate from a comet. RMG

We are coming up to the first quarter of the Moon but it will set by 10pm, so that light won’t interfere. Obviously, you get a better view, away from city lights. It is more likely people will see meteors on their way to evening work, or end of night shifts, midnight into the small hours. you should also be able to see Mars in the early evening sky just above the moon and left in the southern sky. 

So what about the cloud cover?
There is some cloud about, in the west with light rain and low cloud off the North Sea. To get a better view you need little light pollution. 

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Thursday 13th a good deal of clear skies and it will be cold out there. The meteor shower will be visible with the naked eye, if you have the patience or just good luck. Peak activity occurs early on the morning of 14 December around 2am, but if you head out after 10pm, the moon will have set and you might see a few on the night of 13 December. Activity is likely to be low before midnight but as the radiant( the source point) climbs higher in the sky, the count should increase.

If you have binoculars or a telescope, it's worth having a look for a comet, Wirtanen

A Christmas comet

It's not the Christmas comet but 46P Comet Wirtanen is relatively close to Earth at the moment. Look toward the constellation Taurus, just west of Orion, which can be quickly found through the three stars of Orion's belt. Comet Wirtanen will lie between two bright star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades.You need binoculars and it's closest approach will be on the 16th.

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