High Bridge offers a chance to see Geminid meteor shower 

Published 10:18 am Friday, December 1, 2023

Last week, we talked about the Geminid meteor shower, which can be seen here in Central Virginia through most of December. Now High Bridge State Park officials want to make it easier for residents to catch a glimpse. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, High Bridge will be open from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for visitors who want to see the winter Geminids meteor shower. It might be easier to see the shower at High Bridge, as it’s a place with very little light pollution and a huge, unobstructed star field. The Geminds shower can be impressive as the Earth makes its annual journey through a chunky debris field left behind by a passing asteroid, and cold winter skies can produce a high degree of clarity. The only access to High Bridge for this program is by way of Camp Paradise at 1466 Camp Paradise Road in Rice. The event is free, but parking fees apply. 

So what is a meteor shower? According to NASA officials, these showers happen when Earth passes through debris trails left by comets. That debris then collides with our atmosphere and disintegrates, creating these fiery and often colorful streaks in the sky. 

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Now we say all that to then immediately pull the rug out. You see, NASA officials don’t believe the Geminid meteor shower was created that way. Instead, Scientists think that pieces of an asteroid, known as 3200 Phaethon, broke off in the mid-1800s after thousands of years of space travel. As a result, billions of tons of debris pieces went flying into the solar system. The remains of that asteroid, roughly 3 miles in diameter, still orbit the sun today, taking 1 and a half years to make it around. And each time it passes our way, more debris breaks off and becomes the meteors we sit outside and watch fly through the sky.