Land of the Night Sky

December Showers: PARI invites the public to view the beautiful Geminids on Sunday.

December Showers: PARI invites the public to view the beautiful Geminids on Sunday.

Forget holiday light shows for a moment – the tacky kind, the high-design kind, and all kinds in between – and consider the December gift of Mother Nature: the Geminid Meteor Shower.

According to Bob Hayward, meteorologist at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman, “this year, the Geminids are calculated to reach a peak of about 120 meteors per hour around 1 am on December 14. Thus, the best times for observing should be overnight on the 13-14th and the 14-15th. Successful observing of the Geminids can start as early as 10 pm, as the constellation of Gemini [aka “The Twins”] rises higher in the sky.”

PARI offers a public viewing Sunday, December 13, from 10pm-midnight, at the venue’s outdoor planetarium. Professional astronomers and informed volunteers will be on hand to answer questions. Warm dress and a warm (non-alcoholic) beverage is recommended. Reservations are required.

Just for fun, Bold Life contacted professional glass artist/amateur astronomer Chris Juedemann of Hendersonville, who, via telescope, keeps track of significant cosmic events with his wife and daughter. Juedemann revealed the chilling reality of backyard viewing.

“ ‘Dress warmly’ is an understatement,” he jokes. “We take the couch into the yard with a pile of blankets, hats, jackets, gloves. You’re basically sitting still for hours in 25-degree weather. You can’t have a fire, because it ruins your night vision. And you have to be outside in the dark for at least 15 minutes before your eyes adjust. If you shine a flashlight or light a lighter, start again.”

He adds this tip: “It’s also fun to look for satellites while you’re watching for meteors. They look like an unblinking bright star moving pretty quickly across the sky.”

For more information about the public viewing and directions to PARI, visit www.pari.edu; to make reservations, call 828-562-5554.

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