This Saturday, the 9th December, is the fourth anniversary of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and we couldn’t have planned the anniversary date much better.
In just a few days’ time, we will be treated to the spectacular Geminids Meteor Shower; an annual event that, according to NASA astronomers, is one of the “best and most reliable” showers of the year.
The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was unveiled in December 2013 and at 572 square miles (1,483 square kilometres) it is also Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. Thanks to its pristine skies it was awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, making it officially the best place in England for people to go to enjoy the heavens.
A trickle of meteors has been visible overnight over the last fortnight. However, the shower will hit its peak during the night of the 13th and 14th December. At that point, the shower will become one of the premier astronomical events of the year. We have our fingers crossed firmly for clear skies. First reports of the shower emerged in the mid-1800s, but at the time there were only 10-20 meteors per hour. These days, it’s more like 120 meteors at the peak. The shower gets its name from the Gemini constellation, where all the shooting stars appear to radiate out from.
The Geminids might appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, but it is fragments of 3200 Phaethon that causes the fireworks. The asteroid has a debris trail in orbit around the sun. Once a year, Earth runs into this dusty path, which intersects our planet’s path through space.
We are holding a Geminids Meteor Watch event at The Sill on the 13th December to celebrate both the anniversary and the Meteor Shower. You could also travel to one of our Dark Sky Discovery Sites to enable you to make the most of this celestial showcase.
We have a full list of our Dark Sky Discovery Sites on our website and make sure to check our Stargazer’s Beginner’s Guide to help you get the most of your sky watching. Remember to wrap up warm and enjoy the show.
You can also find out more about other stargazing events by taking a look at our What’s On Guide and the websites for Kielder Water and Forest Park, Kielder Observatory and Battlesteads Observatory. Our annual report for the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park can be found here.