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The biggest meteor shower of the year is this week. Here’s how to watch

A celestial fireworks show is brewing in the Wichita skies this week.

The Geminid meteor shower, generally regarded as the most active meteor shower of the year, is expected to peak in the Wichita area Thursday evening into early Friday morning.

During this meteor shower, meteorologists are forecasting that hundreds of meteors will shoot through the sky — some visible even in the early evening hours.

The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored, and travel at a medium-to-slow velocity, according to the American Meteor Society.

Wichita is in a pretty good spot to view the meteor shower, provided some forecasted light cloud coverage Thursday evening subsides.

If you don’t catch this particular meteor shower Thursday night, you might have to wait a year until it returns. The 2019 Geminid meteor shower is scheduled to occur during a full moon, which will likely obscure viewing.

Tips for viewing the Geminid

You don’t need any special equipment to watch the meteor shower — the naked eye is the best instrument to use.

For optimal viewing, it’s recommended you drive away from the city and any bright lights; however, because this particular shower is expected to be so active, it’s likely you’ll be able to see some from your own backyard.

Experts recommend dedicating at least 45 minutes to viewing the meteor shower — as eyes can require up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness.

The best time to watch will be after midnight, once the moon has set. If the moon is still out when you’re watching, face away from it to allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Be sure to bundle up, as temperatures are expected to be in the teens.

There is no particular area of the sky to watch, as meteors may appear in any visible portion of the sky — the optimal viewing position is actually lying down on the ground to keep an eye on as much of the sky as possible.

In 2017, some celestial observers counted as many as 160 meteors in an hour during the Geminid meteor shower, according to AccuWeather.

What about photographing it?

The American Meteor Society recommends shooting the meteor shower with a camera that can take an exposure in the range of 1 to 10 minutes.

The darker the sky, the longer you’ll be able to set your exposure so as to avoid washing it all out.

“Stars will be pinpoints in short exposures but will trail across the frame in parallel paths in exposures exceeding a minute,” according to the society. “Meteors will appear as straight streaks across your frame, often crossing star trails.”

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.
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