The Great Geminid Meteor Shower

“It was a fine night, indeed!” exclaimed AAA Executive Vice President, Bart Fried. “The Geminids lived up to their billing as very fast meteors. They shoot in at approximately 34 km/second and if you blink, you miss that one. The wind was brisk at Robert Moses State Park but it cleared out any moisture and the transparency was very good. We saw a few meteors right down to the horizon, which speaks to the clarity of the air. None of us mentioned seeing any vapor trails or sparkling behind the meteors, and if there was any color to speak of, I certainly didn’t notice it, as I was looking for that. But the bright ones were very good and for the two hours we could handle the cold, it was well worth the trip out there.”


Other hardy observers were to be found on that cold Winter’ night, where no creature was stirring, not even a mouse. “We also bumped into some of our AOS (Amateur Observers Society) friends, including Bill Bradley who was imaging the Jellyfish Nebula. All in all, a good night!”  concluded Bart.


Charles Crockett made his first trip out to Robert Moses State Park. Here is his report of that evening.

Observing the recent Geminid Meteor Shower at Robert Moses State Park.


The 2023 Geminid meteor shower peaked on the evening of December 13, through December 14th. Bart Fried and I met in Forest Hills, Queens and we drove together out to Robert Moses State Park. It’s the first time I have been there and it’s an hour-long drive, so we did some catching up along the way. At about 10:00 pm, we arrived at Parking field Lot #2, and plenty of other cars were already there; I had assumed we’d be the only ones!


We met up with enthusiastic AAA member Theresa Hong, as well as some members of Amateur Observers Society of New York, to which its intrepid member, Bill Bradley was already set up and imaging the Jellyfish Nebula while watching for Geminids. We chatted in the cold wind between 10pm and 11pm, and we began to see some bright meteors radiating away from [the constellation] Gemini, already well up in the Eastern sky.


Using a DSLR on a tripod, I took some exposures hoping to catch some meteors. I thought I caught some, but I was told that since they were blinking in regular intervals from end to end, they were airplanes invading the field of view. I was pleased with the night sky images, while disappointed that none contained any meteors. Visually, however, I was able to note approximately 20 Geminid meteors between 10 pm and Midnight, when we left. This short trip has now motivated me to join AAA’s astrophotography group as well as to go on more dark sky trips with the club.  – Charles Crockett.

The Pleiades (upper right), Taurus (middle right), and Orion (lower)
Canis Major

And what did enthusiastic AAA member Theresa Hong have to say about the Meteor Shower?  “Robert Moses Field 2 last night was well worth the trip for the spectacular view of the Geminids! I was there from 9:45 to 11:30 pm and saw at least 40 meteors! They ranged from small to huge ones streaking across the sky every few minutes.” 


There was a rumor going around that the Geminids might be “the feminists Meteor Shower.”  Funny, but when I Googled “feminists Meteor Shower” it came up with “Geminid Meteor Shower” so could there be a connection? Hmmm …


Other reports came in that evening and morning from our ever ready and able corps of local Astronomers and Astrophotographers. Howard Fink reports: “I was on my roof (Upper West Side) between 12 and 12:30 am and saw 4 meteors.  Sky was unusually transparent. About forty to fifty stars in the sky [could be seen], double the usual number.  I could pick out 3 stars in the Pleiades.  One flock of birds in V-formation lit from below heading south [were observed].” – Howard Fink


Marcy Cohen has spent much time traveling and photographing extensively throughout over 50 countries. Included here is her report and photograph of a big Bolide over the Hudson River.  “It was taken from the porch right outside my front door in Croton–on-Hudson, New York! What was super nice was having the rig set up right outside on autopilot and then going to sleep in my nice warm bed.  This bolide was captured around 2:21am.”  For those not in the know: a Bolide or “Fireball” is an exceptionally bright meteor, burning up through our atmosphere. A grand prize for those trying to capture meteors gracing our skies.                                 

A quick reminder that a Stargazing permit is needed for each vehicle, to do any observing at the Robert Moses parking Lot field 2. Permits are available through the New York State’s Park and Recreation website. Interested in nighttime photography? Do join AAA’s astrophotography Google group.


By the way – This January’s Quadrantid Meteor Shower have the potential to be the strongest shower of the year but usually fall short due to the short length of maximum activity (6 hours). “The average hourly rate one can expect under dark skies is 25. These meteors usually lack persistent trains but often produce bright fireballs. Due to the high northerly declination (celestial latitude) these meteors are not well seen from the southern hemisphere.”


Other interesting sources: