• Twinkling lights brighten skies over Vineyard Haven.
  • Mark Lovewell

Shooting Stars

The Geminid meteor shower takes place on Sunday and Monday nights and is usually the best meteor shower of the year. It is an annual favorite among backyard astronomers for it brings lots of fast moving meteors into the night sky. The shower would be everyone’s favorite if it didn’t take place in cold December.

The Perseid meteor shower in August gets all the attention for it takes place when most everyone can stand outside at night without a fear of freezing. But the Geminid is the best for the potential number of meteors that can be seen. It is a bigger shower. Plus, the shower is significant enough to cover the span of at least two nights. So if you miss the first, you’ve got another chance.

The Geminid meteor shower gets better later in the night, when the constellation is higher in the sky, though it is possible to see meteors any time as long as it is dark. Meteors appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, thus its name. Gemini is on the eastern horizon in the evening and is high overhead near midnight.

Ancient astronomers could only imagine that the constellation was the source. Today’s astronomers know better. The meteors, little particles of space debris, come from asteroid 3200 Phaethon, a large boulder that circles the sun within our solar system. The Geminids is the only meteor shower attributed to an asteroid and not a comet.

A check with different Internet scientific websites render different predictions for the number of meteors you’ll see in an hour, but for the Vineyard it is safe you will see quite a few.

The Peterson Field Guide book Stars and Planets reports a potential of 70 meteors an hour. Other sources on the web are higher. Still, don’t judge a shower by the number. Judge it by the beauty.

The best way to enjoy this and any shower is to dress up for a prolonged trip outside. Grab a chair and espend at least 15 minutes outside to allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Sit back and wait.

Let us know how many you see if you keep track of how many minutes you are watching.


Sunrise and Sunset
Fri., Dec. 116:584:11
Sat., Dec. 126:594:11
Sun., Dec. 136:594:11
Mon., Dec. 147:004:11
Tues., Dec. 157:014:12
Wed., Dec. 167:024:12
Thurs., Dec. 177:024:12
Fri., Dec. 187:034:12

Temperatures and Precipitation
DayMax (Fº)Min (Fº)Inches
Dec. 453370.00
Dec. 549320.00
Dec. 650320.00
Dec. 755420.00
Dec. 855410.03
Dec. 947390.04
Dec. 1051440.07


Water temperature in Edgartown harbor: 51º F


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