Wednesday is the best time to look for the Geminid meteors from Tucson — probably

2012-12-11T14:38:00Z 2012-12-11T14:55:06Z Wednesday is the best time to look for the Geminid meteors from Tucson — probablyTom Beal, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 11, 2012 2:38 pm  • 

Watch the skies tonight for the shooting stars of the Geminid Meteor shower.

Most astronomical sources say the show will be at its peak Thursday night and early Friday but clouds are moving into Southern Arizona.

If you wait till Thursday night to look for the Geminids, you’ll catch an eyeful of rain or snow instead.

Astronomer Adam Block, at Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, is feeling pretty good about scheduling his Geminid viewing event for Wednesday when the clouds may stay away long enough to accommodate meteor gazing.

Block also predicts that the meteor shower will be more spectacular tonight than tomorrow.

In any event, the weatherman predicts Thursday will be a washout.

The National Weather Service has “high confidence” in its prediction of valley rain and mountain snow beginning Thursday evening and continuing through Friday afternoon.

Clouds will lower and the prediction is for rain and mountain snow, with the best chance between midnight and early afternoon Friday.

Snow levels will drop to 4,500 feet, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Davis. The higher reaches of the Santa Catalinas will receive 3 to 6 inches of snow.

“Wednesday night is not going to be totally clear,” said Davis. “High clouds will be moving in sometime Wednesday night.”

Block hopes he and his star-gazers atop Mount Lemmon will get in some good, if cold, meteor viewing ahead of the storm. The Geminids are an annual event, occasioned by Earth’s passage through a portion of sky inhabited by dust particles from a “rocky comet” called Phaeton.

When the dust bits hit Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up in a bright, streaking lights, as many as 100 per hour at peak.

They appear to emanate from the constellation Gemini, which will be directly overhead about 1:30 a.m. Meteors can occur in large numbers for days before and after the peak, so Wednesday should be a good show if those clouds don’t show up early.

Friday night is a possibility if a second storm stays to the north of us.

Find a dark patch of sky and bundle up.

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From the cosmos to the invisible world of nanotechnology, this is the place for anyone with a "scientific bent" in Southern Arizona.

Senior reporter Tom Beal provides color commentary from the science beat and assistant business editor Dave Wichner contributes an inside look at the business aspects of technology.

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