Don’t miss the Geminid Meteor Shower this Friday night! Here’s how, where and when to view

The annual Geminid Meteor Shower peaks this weekend, and we’ve got some tips for stargazers hoping to catch it.

The New Moon falls on Thursday, Dec. 13 this year, which should guarantee us nice, dark night for viewing. The Geminid Meteor shower peaks every December and is one of the best, most reliable showers, producing an average of 100 meteors per hour.

A Geminid meteor in 2009, as viewed from San Francisco
A Geminid meteor in 2009, as viewed from San Francisco, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Says HMNS Astronomer James Wooten: “The Geminids are unique among meteor showers because they are associated not with a comet but with an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon. This means that with Geminids, we see significant activity much earlier in the night than with other showers.”

That means instead of having to wait until the wee morning hours to see this beautiful shower, meteors will start radiating from the constellation Gemini as early as 9 or 10 p.m., although the shower will likely peak just before dawn.

As with all showers, the Geminid Meteor Shower will be best viewed away from city light pollution. The George Observatory will be open Friday night and into Saturday morning for observation. For directions to The George, located just an hour south of Houston, click here. Entry to Brazos Bend State Park is $7 per person; free for kids under 12. You don’t need any special equipment for viewing, just a chair, blankets and maybe some hot apple cider.

If you observe the meteor shower and are able to capture some great photos, share them with our Flickr group or by using the hashtag #hmnsgeminid on Twitter and Instagram. If Facebook’s your thing, post your photos on our wall, or tag us, and we’ll compile a credited album of everyone’s shots!

Save the Date, Save Energy, Help Save the Planet!

Turn off your lights and unplug anything you can this Saturday night, March 28, 2009, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.  You’ll be joining over one billion people, in over 2,800 cities and towns in 84 countries, who have chosen to conserve energy during the international “Earth Hour” celebration.  This is the first time Houston will officially participate. 

One hour without electricity doesn’t seem like much, but if enough people turn off their lights and appliances, etc., huge amounts of energy can be saved.  Hopefully this brief participation will make all of us think a bit more about how we use (and misuse) this finite resource and will inspire us to take further actions.  For more information, visit www.earthhour.org or www.earthhourus.org

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Then, on April 24, turn out your lights again for the 2nd annual “Lights Out Houston” program.  Although this program primarily targets Houston businesses, all of us can participate.  Last year the electricity saved was enough to power 4,600 average Texas homes for a year!  Check out http://www.houston.org/lights-out-houston/ to learn more and to see a list of businesses/corporations that participated in 2008.  If your company is not on the list, encourage the powers that be where you work to join this worthy effort! 

And be sure to get outside to gaze up at the stars during these “lights out” events!  Without all the “light pollution” of a normally-lit night in the greater Houston area, you should be able to see a lot more stars and constellations!   Lots more at www.darksky.organd www.starrynightlights.com/lpIndex.html