Astronomers say Australians should keep their eyes peeled this weekend for a Geminids meteor shower.
Most years, there are three major meteor showers, and this weekend’s Geminids is the one visible in both hemispheres.
Dr Tanya Hill, an astronomer at the Melbourne Planetarium, said as the Earth passes through debris left behind by the asteroid Phaethon, there should be an impressive light-show.
“We’re actually going to be looking at debris form an asteroid that’s out there in space and the earth is currently ploughing through it,” she said.
“And so all those small little chunks from the asteroid are now going to come pouring through the atmosphere and cause lovely shooting stars.”
Dr Hill said some shooting stars may have been visible on Saturday but the peak of the shower was expected to occur on Sunday night.
“Where you want to be looking is towards the north-east. We’re looking for the constellation of Gemini or the Twins which is marked by two bright starts known as Pollux and Castor,” she said.
“Now if you’re further north, in Brisbane for instance, those stars will rise about 9:00pm. That’s when you can start to go out and see if you can catch any of these meteor showers.
“As we head further south places like Melbourne will see those stars appear about 11:00pm in the evening or Hobart it’s about 11:20pm.
“The other thing though is that a couple of hours later around midnight local time, wherever you are in the country, or 1:00am for summer time, the moon will actually rise and that will drown out some of the fainter meteors.
“The thing with the Gemini is, because so many of the meteors are brighter and more dense, there is a great chance of still being able to catch a few.”
Dr Hill said the meteor shower will be much longer-lasting than regular shooting stars.
“For most meteor showers we plough through dust debris that’s left over from comet, whereas in this case, being an asteroid, the debris is a bit more denser, and so the difference you’ll see in the night sky is that from a lot of these meteors,” she said.
“They’re more long-lasting and so you’ll see a much longer flash through the night sky.”