This week marks the return of the annual Geminid Meteor Shower, which are expected to peak this Sunday and Monday.
And a great place to see this cosmic show is at The Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, which will be open to the public Saturday, Dec. 12 from dusk til midnight for viewing (weather permitting).
As the Earth moves through its orbit, it passes through various “debris fields,” which are small particles shed by comets of the past. In rare instances, asteroids instead of comets cause these fields, and the Geminid Meteor Shower is one of those cases.
According to space news website Space.com, the best time to view most meteor showers is after midnight, when the Earth is heading directly into the meteor particles. While meteors can originate from any direction, Space.com recommends looking toward the east for the Geminids.
The Geminids appear to be related to the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which has an unusual, comet-like orbit.
People are encouraged to check Custer Observatory’s website for weather updates, because clouds, fog, rain and full moons are not good for star gazing. Luckily the Observatory’s moon calendar reports the meteor shower will occur with almost no moon in the sky this weekend, so they should be easy to see.
The Custer Institute and Observatory is located at 1115 Main Bayview Road in Southold. A donation of $5 for adults and $3 for children under 14 is encouraged and includes admission to the observatory, which survives on donations alone. Members are free. For more information call (631) 765-2626 or visit custerobservatory.org.