People across Kolkata and elsewhere in the country will get an amazing opportunity to witness a meteor shower display on Wednesday night.
If clouds and atmospheric pollution do not play spoilsport, then people can observe the meteor shower till the early hours of Thursday, December 14.
Debiprosad Duari, director of MP Birla Planetarium said that the Geminid meteor shower is expected to provide a celestial display and people will have to move out of the glare of city lights to a darker region to enjoy the galactic marvel.
Duari also mentioned that there is no need of binoculars or telescopes to watch the celestial display, sky watchers just need to go to an open space and keep an eye on the sky.
"This year the Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak on the night of December 13 and the early morning of December 14.
The shower will start at around 10 pm on December 13 when the Gemini constellation will be visible in the north-eastern sky, a little above and right of the familiar Orion constellation," Duari said.
Commenting on the same, Duari said it is speculated that shower will be at its maximum at around 2 am on December 14. At the time of the shower, the Gemini constellation will be almost overhead and the number of meteors can reach up to 120 per hour.
"Though the meteors tend to originate from the Gemini constellation, they can be observed from most parts of the sky.
Since the meteors are relatively slow moving, the bright streaks of light will be easily visible and one does not need a binocular or telescope for enjoying the show while lying on an open ground away from city lights," he said.
What are meteoroids?
When rocks and dust particles from space are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere are called meteoroids.
He said, "And those that streak through the atmosphere are called meteors. Generally, comets, which are chunks of ice having lots of dust come close to the Sun. By the Sun’s radiation, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet.
"If the Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a trail of debris of dust particles, the small dust particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere with considerable speed."
He further explained that, due to friction in the atmosphere, the rocks and dust particles burn up which give rise to numerous meteors which are known as meteor showers.
What is a Geminid meteor shower?
In case of the Geminid meteor shower, so named as the meteors appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini, it is not a comet but an unusual asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983, the eminent scientist said.
Generally, the meteor shower associated with 3200 Phaethon, a 5.1 km piece of rock, peaks around the second week of December and some astronomers believe the asteroid may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into creating the meteor shower.