Orbital View: Catching a Shooting Star

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

On camera, that is:

From the caption on the Russian Federal Space Agency’s account:

The Geminids meteor shower begins tonight. Rush to make a wish when you see a shooting star! It is very hard to see a Meteor against the background of our beautiful planet, but not for [cosmonaut] Oleg Kononenko.

From a guide to watching the Geminid show:

The peak nights of the 2015 Geminid meteor shower are expected to be on December 13-14 (night of December 13 till dawn December 14) and 14-15 (night of December 14 till dawn December 15).

Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. The waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, leaving dark skies for this year’s Geminid meteor shower.

Geminid meteors are bright! This shower favors Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, but it’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too. Follow the links [here] to learn more about the Geminid meteor shower in 2015.

One more interesting detail:

Some people mistakenly think that, since meteor showers have radiant points, you should look in the direction of the shower’s radiant point to see the most meteors. Not so! The meteors will appear in all parts of the sky. It’s even possible to have your back to the constellation Gemini and see a Geminid meteor fly by. However, if you trace the path of a Geminid meteor backwards, it appears to originate from the direction of the constellation Gemini.

(See all Orbital Views here)