Sunday, December 16, 2012

“The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink; I heard a voice; it said `Drink, pretty creature, drink!'” - William Wordsworth

The Geminids Are Out
(Credit:  Pandadumpster @ Flickr)

This picture looks exactly like the sky we were viewing.  

It's the most wonderful time of the year - for viewing the Geminid meteor showers.  In years past the showers have coincided with a bright full moon.  This December the annual event peaks on the new moon insuring a dark background of a sky for optimum observing with the naked eye.  After a few shout-outs on social media I had myself a little Geminid party heading for the beach - the darkest place in our area to observe the cosmic fireworks show. 

 I suggested any stargazers bundle up because our Florida temperature had taken a serious dip in the mercury. Shortly after sundown we arrived on the beach armed with blankets, pillows, & thermoses of hot chocolate. We settled in on the cold damp sand with our eyes scoping out the darkening horizon for meteors.  With the help of our smart phones and various sky watching apps, we were able to watch Orion rise above the horizon first.  Our eyes were trained on the sky to the east where the constellation Gemini was to the left of Orion.  The meteors were supposed to originate from that vicinity. 

 The inky night sky echoed with our shrieks of oh's and ahh's as a first meteor blasted over head leaving a blazing  trail behind it.  We were all meteorite-newbies so it was like seeing a first dolphin in the wild or a first double-rainbow.  The excitement-and-wonder-meter was on overload. We stopped counting after 80 or so meteors. Meteors shot across the sky about every 5 minutes or so.  The awe of seeing each one never dimmed.  The last one was just as amazing as the first one.  The sea fog rolled in like a misty curtain signaling the end to the show around 11 pm. The flashes from our camera phones and loud laughter had drawn the attention of law enforcement who walked out to our little star-gazing camp on the beach to see what all the fuss was about.  As they shined their flashlights on us they seemed amused to find only a group of friends drinking hot chocolate and watching the meteor shower. 

The Geminid meteor shower is an annual event - look for it next December.  Here's some good tips for watching.

Geminids 2012 - Winter Hexagon
(Credit:  Reonides @ Flickr)

It takes skill and expensive camera equipment to catch a shot like this - both of which I am deficient in.  The sky we were laying under looked just like this.

Laying on your back is the best position for viewing.

(L to R) Wade-ster, Gee-man, & Momma Gee are always ready for some outdoor fun. 

Oh the weather outside is frightful - but the sky is so delightful!

Terri & Dana enjoying the show.

Balancing precariously on the back chairs legs
 enabled me to view the sky without  having to  crane my neck.