Geminids meteor shower 2018 to be visible in HK skies, but you'll need to be early

Geminids meteor shower 2018 to be visible in HK skies, but you'll need to be early

The annual December celestial event features particularly slow-moving shootings stars. Here's where to go to see it, and how best to capture it

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The Geminids seen over Japan last night.
Photo: EPA

The Geminids meteor shower should be visible from Hong Kong tonight, with two “peaks”, which is the point at which it's more visible and dramatic, at 8.30 pm and midnight. According to the Hong Kong Space Museum website, the shower is active from early December to mid December, but it peaks tonight.

Unfortunately, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts today's conditions to be "mainly cloudy with sunny intervals in the afternoon." However, a spokesman for the HKO said there may be gaps in the clouds, and the latest weather updates can be found on their website. (You may want to keep an extra close eye on these two sections if you're planning to catch the meteor shower: 'Weather Photo'  and 'Weather Information for Astronomical Observation', where images of the latest weather conditions at various locations in Hong Kong are uploaded.) 

The presence of clouds will naturally affect the viewing. , according to .  “Clear skies are necessary [to watch this event]," said Astronomy Officer Kenneith Hui Ho-keung of the Ho Koon Nature Education cum Astronomical Centre. "The presence of clouds is very adverse, but we hope it will improve.”

Stargazing 101 in Hong Kong​

The Geminids, named after the constellation Gemini it resembles, will begin to rise in the northeast at about 7.30 p.m. and reach the zenith - meaning the point in the sky directly above an onlooker - at about 2.30 am, according to Hong Kong Space Museum. Citizens may observe the meteor shower from the night of December 14 till before sunrise.

While light pollution always threatens to block out the shine of starry nights, the Space Museum website says you should get excellent views from the following places. 

Plover Cove Reservoir main dam in Tai Mei Tuk, something of a stargazing hotspot even though the sky to the west is affected by light pollution from Tolo Highway, where the view to the east is usually dark enough for stars. Public transport from the area is available until 11pm.

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Tai Hang Tun Kite-flying venue in Clearwater Bay Country Park is also an option. There aren't many buildlings around, so there should be a great clear view of the sky, and though there are boats moored nearby that emit light, it's still far less than what you'd experience in the city. To get there, take a bus towards Clear Water Bay, and get off at Tai Au Mun stop. The kite centre is a 20-30-minute walk away.

Chan Chun-lam, Assistant Curator II at the Space Museum points out moonlight will affect visibility of the meteor, so the best time to see the phenomenon will be after moonset, which will be at around 11pm.  

For the best viewing, Hui advises stargazers to go to rural areas. "The enviroment must be a dark, open area," he said; so besides Plover Cove Reservoir, he suggests High Island Reservoir in Sai Kung, outlying islands such as Tung Ping Chau, or the southern beaches of Lantau, such as Cheung Sha or Pui O.

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Taking note of the weather conditions, Hui notes there will be more opportunities to watch the shower on Saturday and Sunday, but due to the moon's various degrees of brightness during its cycle, when it waxes - which is when it's brighter - will affect the meteor shower's visibility, too. "The most ideal time is tonight," says Hui.

Meteors can usually be seen by the naked eye without the help of a telescope. Given the recent cold snap, make sure you dress warmly, and bring something to sit on in case the ground is damp. Instead of using white light for illumation, red lights will affect visibility from wherever you're viewing Geminids less. So get a bit of red cellophane and wrap it around the light of your flashlight.

If you have a camera with a long time-exposure function, you can try to capture an image of the Geminids. The Space Museum recommends you aim to capture Gemini or its neighbouring constellations for a five-minute exposure time and set youre camera to an ISO value higher than 400. 

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