Night sky double feature happening Tuesday

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Dec 13, 2016 at 12:00 PM

The last of the year’s three supermoons will rise Tuesday, accompanied by a special meteor shower of shooting stars known as Geminid meteors. 

The phenomenon known as the supermoon is something that happens when the moon’s orbit reaches closer to the earth than normal. November had the closest moon on record since 1948. The moon being closer to the earth isn’t too noticeable for the common observer, but the brightness of the orb could make it difficult to see parts of the meteor shower.

The supermoon should rise just after sunset. 

Geminid meteors are named for their constellation counterpart, the constellation Gemini, which will rise Tuesday around 8 p.m. The shower takes place roughly from Dec. 6 through Dec. 19 each year with Dec. 13-14 the best nights for viewing when the event reaches its peak. 

A meteor shower happens when the earth passes through a patch of debris, making streaks in the sky as the particles burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. This is commonly known as a shooting star. 

The best time to view the celestial event will be around 2 a.m., and although the brightness of the supermoon may drown out some of the dimmer meteors, this is the kind of event that is worth being up at the late hour due to the Geminids commonly being larger than the sand-grain sized normal debris. Larger debris, some the size of grapefruits, burn unusually bright, which has earned them the name fireballs. They can even produce smoke trails that may last for minutes on end. 

A meteor shower can be seen with the naked eye. The best observing locations are in a dark place away from lights that can dampen the view. During the event, since the supermoon will be blazing bright in the sky, it is advised to turn away from the moon to catch the best view of the meteor shower.


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