Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Geminid Meteor Shower 14/15 December 2011

Geminid Meteor Shower is here again! The best time to catch it at its peak is during the nights or early mornings of 14 - 15 December 2011 for Asia.

Meteors can streak across any part of the sky during those nights but one should have a higher chance of seeing them if you look at the part of the sky where the constellation Gemini is located. Unfortunately, there is bright Moon near Gemini which will make the fainter streaks hard if not impossible to see.

But the good news is that Geminds brighter fireballs may still be spotted as proven in this video created by John Chumack from the United States just yesterday!

One way to avoid Moon's light is to start observing once the sky is dark and before the Moon rises at about 10pm Singapore time for those 2 nights. Try to stay in a dark spot and let your eyes dark adapt as much as possible during this period. Looking at your brightly lit handphone display will spoil your dark eye adaptation. So try to lower your handphone screen brightness as much as possible or better still wrap a red piece of cellophane around it. :)

The best time to observe is around 2.00 am in the early morning when Gemini will be high up in the sky.

Location wise, choose a dark place with a good unobstructed view of the North East portion of the sky. Changi Beach is such one good location. Try to position yourself inside the shadow of a big tree while facing towards the sea.

It will be good idea to bring along some reclining chairs or sleeping bags as you may be looking up at the sky for long periods of time. You may want to put on long pants, a sweater and wear socks as the temperature may drop as the night progresses and the cold sea wind blowing towards you. This attire will also minimise any potential mosquito bites.

Of course the sky must be relatively clear too to see any meteor showers. You do not need to wait for the whole sky to be completely clear before you can see meteors. If you are lucky, the fireballs may just streak pass a certain clear patch of the sky.

Here is one beautiful video of last year's Geminids created by YouTuber Mockmoon. Do check out his other stunning time-lapse videos too at his youtube channel.

Once you have made a decision to go to a beach and observe, do manage your expectations about the possibility catching the meteor shower. There is always a possibility you will not see any. So do not get too worked up if you don't. Astronomy as a hobby is suppose to relieve stress, not increase it. :)

Here are some ideas to make your trip enjoyable even if you don't see any meteors or while waiting for the clouds to clear:

(1) Go observe with a friend or a group of friends. It is a great time to catch up with them while enjoying the sea breeze and the cool weather.

(2) Listen to music or audio books while you look up at the sky.

(3) Bring a small binocular and scan the the clear patches of the sky for stars. If you are lucky, a bright meteor might just flash past in the binocular view! The binocular can be use for plane watching as Changi Beach is near the airport.

(4) If you can bring a small telescope along and intend to stay overnight, try to observe Venus which is visible in the west just after sunset, Jupiter high up in the east and Mars and Saturn rising up from the east after midnight!

(5) Have some nice supper like the lasi lemak at the 24 hr hawker center near the bus interchange.

December is one of the wettest month here so it most people may not feel too optimistic about seeing the Geminds. But even if you miss this peak meteor shower period due to bad weather, it is still possible to see them the next few days at at less rate. So keep checking the weather for the next few days and get ready to go out and catch some meteors if the night sky turns clear.

Last December, my friends and I were lucky in catching a few meteors on a very clear night at Changi Beach. I brought my telescope along and was more interested taking advantage of the rare clear skies to see the star clusters then actually observing the meteors! A group of family and friends join us shortly after midnight and I was glad they manage to catch some meteors before they left.

Me and my astro buddy stayed up all the way till sunrise. Here are some of the single-shot non-stacked photos I took that night using a cheapo compact camera on a mini tripod. Apologies for my lousy post-processing skills. May try to touch them up for my future talks and presentations if I have the time.

Orion Constellation ( 12 Dec 2010 23:24:17). Those astronomy newcomers who have attended the total lunar eclipse event last Saturday at Toa Payoh Central should have no problem identifying this constellation in this photo. The ghostly red patch is a cloud.

Venus and Saturn ( 13 Dec 2010 06:12:35 ). Venus is so bright and that's why it is also known as the Morning Star.

Human Lightning Rod ( 13 Dec 2010 06:15:26 ). The Big Dipper! Making use of the camera timer, I have to make a 10 second dash to the telescope and freeze in that pose for another 15 seconds.

So good luck guys! Hope you can catch some meteors and make a wish for the world not to end in 2012! LOL :P


  1. Anyone tried to look yesterday? At around central singapore it was terribly cloudy from 8 all the way till 2am. However I saw one at around 1.20am - 1.40am. It was extremely bright as I saw it through the clouds (which were so thick). It was around the hydra constellation region.(hope my eyes weren't playing tricks on me lol)

  2. Congrats on catching a fireball! Keep trying every clear night till 19 December 2011.

  3. Read your blog. Very interesting and informative articles on star-gazing etc.

    1. Thanks! Glad you like them. Hope to have more free time to write more frequently.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks! It has been a year and Geminids are back again next Thursday evening (13 Dec 2012) on a new moon night!

  5. Thanks much for your informative article :) Appreciate your blog very much!

    1. Thanks Natasha. Glad you like it. Geminid Meteor Shower Peak tomorrow night on a new moon day!