The most powerful annual meteor shower on the calendar is back, but the question again is whether anyone in Oregon will be able to see them.
The spectacular Geminid meteor shower peaks on the night of December 13-14, a typical rainy season in Oregon. However, since the region is currently experiencing an El Niño weather pattern, the odds of clear skies may be better than usual.
Meteor showers don’t just happen for one night, they often last for weeks at a time. Although nights outside peak times may have fewer meteors, they provide a wider window for viewing meteors.
According to the American Meteor SocietyGeminis extends from November 19 to December 24, 2023, coming from the constellation Gemini, which rises above the eastern-northeast horizon at twilight. The peak comes December 13-14 when the moon is 1% full, making it a particularly good time for viewing, since meteors are much easier to see with less light in the night sky. Of course, when the sky is cloudy, you usually can’t see much of anything.
While the skies have been clear in most of Oregon since Thanksgiving, the moon has not been cooperating. The waxing gibbous moon (which was full on Monday) was out all night, rising in the afternoon and setting at sunrise the next morning.
As the moon begins to darken, the clouds are expected to return. Rain is expected to return around Wednesday night. According to the National Weather ServiceAnd stay over the weekend, at least. These forecasts are about the same across the state, from Bend to Burns, and from Brookings to Baker City.
The question is whether the clouds will remain long enough to spoil Oregon’s Geminid meteor shower — again.
When Geminids are visible, they have a reputation for putting on a good show, sending hundreds of bright, colorful meteors across the night sky. The meteorites are pieces of debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, and it has an orbit that makes it closer to the sun than any other so-called asteroid.
Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through comet or asteroid debris. These pieces of space rock, molten and broken up by the sun’s heat, burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere, forming what is colloquially known as a meteor.
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