Few things in life can make you feel as small as watching meteors glide through the heavens.
The Geminids meteor shower occurs annually. This year we are lucky enough to have the meteor shower coincide with a new moon, creating the perfect setting for some serious sky watching.
Occurring on the 13th of December, lasting most of the duration of the evening and early morning hours of the 14th, this is the perfect meteor shower for those of you who have never thought of looking up. NASA advises you can spot meteors from as early as 9pm all the way through to 4 am the following day.
The Geminid shower receives its name from the Gemini constellation, from which it appears to radiate, when seen from Earth. Even with little knowledge of the constellations and stars you should be able to locate the meteors fairly easy. If you are interested in learning a little more though, make sure you download a 'Sky Wheel' to familiarise yourself with before setting out.
It is recommended you get yourself at least an hour of viewing time, with meteors tipped to hit in excess of 50 an hour. There is little question as to why it is known as one of the most reliable meteor showers of the year. Why not find a buddy or even wake the kids, (if they're old enough to get back to sleep without being major pains in the you know what) pour some wine and enjoy the great outdoors and heavens above?
It is also worth mentioning that Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mercury are visible this time of year, so watch out for them too (a general rule to telling the difference between planets and stars is the absence of the 'twinkling' visual in the former. This is due to them reflecting sunlight as opposed to a star, which generates its own.)
What you'll need:
Eyes Something comfortable to sit on Snacks (I usually have Skittles or something equally yummy)
Sky Wheel (optional)
Buddy to 'ohh and ahh with' (again optional)
Half right, half wrong; here is the real reason stars twinkle, planets not so much. Stars twinkle because of turbulence in the atmosphere of the Earth. As the atmosphere churns, the light from the star is refracted in different directions. This causes the star's image to change slightly in brightness and position, hence "twinkle." This is one of the reasons the Hubble telescope is so successful: in space, there is no atmosphere to make the stars twinkle, allowing a much better image to be obtained.
Planets do not twinkle the way stars do. In fact, this is a good way of figuring out if a particular object you see in the sky is a planet or a star. The reason is that stars are so far away that they are essentially points of light on the sky, while planets actually have finite size. The size of a planet on the sky in a sense "averages out" the turbulent effects of the atmosphere, presenting a relatively stable image to the eye.http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=114