Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed December 9, 1998
Contact: Scott Turner

Targan available for interviews on Sunday night's Geminid meteor shower

The Geminid meteor shower predicted for this Sunday evening (Dec. 13, 1998) "may well be worth staying awake for," according to David Targan, director of Brown University's Ladd Observatory. Targan is available for interviews about the Geminids through noon on Friday, Dec. 11.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- David Targan, director of the Ladd Observatory, is available until noon Friday, Dec. 11, for interviews about the annual Geminid meteor shower.

The shower's peak is predicted to occur on the evening of Dec. 13, 1998, extending through the morning of Dec. 14. The event "may well be worth staying awake for or getting up early for," Targan said. The annual Geminid meteor shower is predicted to be strong this year, he said. Bright meteors from the shower, visible to the naked eye, have already been spotted by astronomers at Ladd Observatory.

Unlike the recent Leonid meteor shower, the Geminids have a broader peak and are more predictable. The predicted high count of 60 to 120 meteors per hour means people looking up at the sky for 10 or 20 minutes will see at least several meteors, Targan said. The Geminids are also slower moving than the Leonids, and they will be somewhat fainter, although some "fireballs" may occasionally be seen.

"Given the phase of the moon, its late rising, the favorable position for the United States, and the growing number of meteors seen each year since its discovery in 1862, this should be an especially good year for skywatchers intent on seeing meteors," Targan said. "The meteors should be visible at any time during the night, although in general the later the better."

The best place to observe the meteors is from a dark location away from city lights that offers an unobstructed view of most of the sky. Some of the brighter meteors may be visible from urban locations. Targan recommends against using telescopes and binoculars. Instead, allow your eyes to wander across as much of the sky as possible, he said. "With a bit of luck, such as no clouds, and patience, you are likely to see meteors of the Geminids shooting across the sky."

Editors: Targan has slides of the recent Leonid meteor shower. The slides were taken by Brown and local astronomers on a joint expedition to New Mexico to view the event. To reach Targan, call the News Bureau at (401) 863-2476.