Photo of meteor shower, taken by Lindsay Thurber Grade 9 student Jacob Pidherney.

Celestial light show can be seen over Red Deer this week

Local students stay up to watch the meteor shower

Another kind of winter light show can be over Central Alberta this week.

If the clouds don’t get in the way and the Christmas lights aren’t too blinding, the tail end of the Geminids meteor shower can be observed tonight and Saturday night, Dec. 15 and 16.

Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School science teacher Jason Zackowski said those interested in viewing this annual phenomenon — described one of nature’s most spectacular light shows — might have to leave the city to find some spots of clear, dark sky.

Although the meteor shower peaked on Dec. 13 and 14, Zackowski believes it will still be possible to see some falling space dust burn up as it enters our atmosphere.

The Geminids is associated with the 3200 Phaethon asteroid instead of a comet. It appears to originate from the Gemini constellation.

Zackowski said a planet or moon might have been smashed millions of years ago, and tiny space particles smaller than most pocket change have been left behind.

The Phaethon asteroid takes about 1.4 years to orbit the sun, which puts it in close proximity to Earth in mid December.

The science teacher discussed the meteor shower with his Grade 9 students. Some were so excited they stayed up to watch — including Jacob Pidherney, who took dramatic photographs.

Young people show great interest in space studies, said Zackowski, who feels it’s too bad it’s only part of the ninth-grade curriculum. “They love talking about space. It’s a huge unknown entity that makes them feel like they are part of something bigger than their school life.”

Movies have played a role in stirring youth interest. Although the latest Star Wars movie is out, Zackowski noted, “you can’t have explosions or sound effects in space.” He believes Interstellar and The Martian present a more accurate picture of life in the cosmos.

In any case, he believes adults sometimes sell teenagers short, thinking they are self-absorbed when “they’re perfectly OK thinking of themselves as a little cog in this massive universe.”

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