Geminids meteor shower’s incredible opening act lights up the sky over Mexico City



December 10, 2018 17:18:37

Mexican stargazers have been treated to the ultimate curtain-raiser for the stunning cosmic light show expected to brighten the night skies later this week.

Key points:

  • Meteor visible above Mexico City and Acapulco
  • Estimated to have been travelling at 20,000kph
  • Early light show seen ahead of Geminids meteor shower and the passing of the “Christmas comet”

A bright green ball of light shot over Mexico in the early hours of Saturday morning, dazzling onlookers below.

The meteor could be seen hurtling through the skies over Acapulco and Mexico City.

Acapulco Astronomical Association president Rodolfo Cobos Arriaga told local masthead El Sol de Acapulco the meteor could have been travelling at about 20,000 kilometres per hour.

He said the exact dimensions of the meteor were tough to determine, but speculated it could have had a diameter of 500 metres, making it big enough for those below to “appreciate the flash of light”.

Videos of the spectacle flooded social media, with vision from Jorge Diaz Henry in New Mexico attracting more than 15,000 views after it was posted to Facebook.

Cosmic curtain-raiser

The stunning display was a precursor for the Geminids meteor shower, expected to peak in the morning of December 15.

After that will come 46P/Wirtanen, known as the “Christmas comet”, the brightest comet of the year.

It will be closest to Earth in the late evening of December 16 (or early morning of December 17 if you are in the AEDT time zone).

46P/Wirtanen whizzes by the Sun roughly every five years, but it’s usually too far away for us to see.

However, this year it will zoom past Earth at about 11.5 million kilometres away from us — which is quite close by cosmic standards.

The comet is already visible to those with binoculars but will be at its brightest between December 14 and December 18.

Astrophotographer Dylan O’Donnell took photos of 46P/Wirtanen earlier this month from his backyard in Byron Bay.

“The coma is particularly bright even now,” he said.

At its brightest, the comet will be about the equivalent of the two dimmest stars we can see in the Southern Cross.

It will be another 20 years before the comet is this close to Earth again.






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