December's celestial show returns

(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The long weekend begins today. If possible, however, it's a good idea that you extend yours to at least Monday. Of course, there's a good reason: the Geminids meteor shower.

One of the most spectacular annual celestial shows, the Geminids can be viewed from Dec 4-17, but the best night is on Dec 13 through to the early hours of Dec 14. That night, the chance of witnessing over a hundred shooting stars is quite good since this year the peak period will coincide with the New Moon, which means the night sky will be darker and, as long as there's no cloud blocking the view, the meteors will be more visible.

The Geminid meteor shower is so named because the shooting stars will be flashing out in every direction from the area in the sky where the namesake constellation is located. This time, the meteors will start to appear at around 8pm but the peak period will be between 2am and 4am on Monday.

To watch the Geminids or any other meteor shower, you need to find a place where the night sky is not polluted with city lights. National parks in most cases do not fit the bill since night-time activities that could disturb the wildlife are usually not allowed. Reservoirs that are well away from towns and cities are a better answer. They tend to be easily accessible. And many are surrounded by hills that shield off electric lights from nearby communities.

Among the recommended sites for meteor shower viewing are Chet Khot-Pong Kon Sao Nature and Ecotourism Study Centre in Saraburi; Hup Khao Wong in Suphan Buri; Pom Pi in Kanchanaburi; Khao Chuk in Rayong; and Mae Ngat Dam in Chiang Mai. But actually, if you scan through Google Maps, you'll find many more such reservoirs. Some might be closer to where you live.

Wherever you choose, bring some warm clothing and camping gear. Also, use common sense and do not put yourself at risk.

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