Central Albertans will have another chance tonight to view what is described as one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year.
Named after the constellation Gemini because the meteors seem to emerge from there, the Geminids Meteor shower takes place between December 4 and 16 of each year.
Astronomers say the meteor shower is unlike other meteor showers as the Geminids are not associated with a comet, but rather an asteroid: the 3200 Phaethon. The asteroid takes about 1.4 years to orbit the sun, with peak activity this year taking place the evening of December 13 and early morning of December 14.
Jason Zackowski, a Science Teacher at Lindsay Thurber High School, says the cool thing about astronomical events like this, as well as the Supermoon, the recent solar eclipse, and an announcement Thursday of eight new planets in another solar system, are keeping kids excited about outer space.
"One of the classes I teach is Science 9 Honours and part of that is the space unit. We talk all the time about just how small Earth is in relation to everything,” he says. “If you hold up your thumb to the night sky, the amount of stars behind your thumb could be millions, and behind that, far enough into space, there are millions of galaxies, each which contain millions or billions of stars."
Zackowski says kids are super engaged and wish more of the curriculum was about space.
“It's not in any curriculum besides grade nine,” he points out. “I try to put space into chemistry -- so when we talk about where energy comes from for plants, well it comes from the sun. Our sun is just a little blip in the universe, it's not anything special. In fact, it's on the small side."
"We think kids think the world revolves around them, but they're totally okay with the idea that they are a small cog in everything that goes on,” Zackowski continues.
As for viewing the Geminids meteor shower Thursday and Friday night, Zackowski has some experience to share.
“I was out there at about one o'clock in the morning for about half an hour. I counted 12 good ones that went straight from the Gemini constellation. It's hard to see that constellation, but you can find it by going up from Orion's belt,” he explains.
"One thing that I do notice too is you see them better after about 10 or 15 minutes in the dark because your eyes adjust."
If you have photos to share of the Geminids meteor shower from around central Alberta, email them to [email protected].
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