Watch a meteor shower Friday morning | SierraSun.com

Watch a meteor shower Friday morning

Laura Brown
Sun News Service

NEVADA CITY ” Since the Civil War, the Geminid meteor shower has streaked across mid-December night skies, offering a dazzling show for anyone willing to brave the bitter cold.

“The meteor shower is supposed to be the best of the year,” said Wayne Watson, a western Nevada County resident with a passion for astronomy.

During the wee hours of Friday morning, while most people are soundly sleeping, a wide-awake and bundled up Watson plans to watch the cosmos and tend to his meteor cameras. The Geminid meteor shower will reach its peak after midnight Friday morning, when dozens of bright meteors are expected to blaze across the pre-dawn sky each hour.

“It’s looking pretty decent for this Friday. The skies are supposed to be clear,” Watson said.

The Geminids, named after the constellation Gemini the Twins, are remnants of a near earth asteroid, not an icy comet, called 3200 Phaeton, according to the NASA website: http://science. nasa.gov/ headlines/y2007/03dec_asteroidshower. htm

Remnants of the asteroid’s debris can be seen from earth as our planet crosses the path of dust streams orbiting around the sun, Watson said.

“There is a good possibility it could be going strong Friday night. We’re going to get lucky, and the sky’s going to cooperate,” Watson said.

Watson remembers, as a 13-year-old boy in Michigan, when a “brilliant fireball went across the sky” launching his lifelong love affair with space and meteors.

Today, his backyard is equipped with an observatory and he regularly contributes videos and photographs of meteors for NASA investigations.

Watson will have several high powered telescopes in tow Friday night to point out the meteor shower plus Mars, Neptune, galaxies and Comet Holmes.

“It’s quite a spectacular comet doing all kinds of wonderful things,” Watson said. The comet “suddenly burst into prominence” at the end of October when its coma expanded, making it nearly as bright as the full moon, Watson said. View the comet at http://apod.nasa. gov/apod/ap071030.html

For Friday’s sky show, Watson recommends dressing warmly, bringing binoculars and a blanket or lawn chairs to lay back and watch the heavens.