Geminids Over Kitt Peak National Observatory

Speeding towards Earth, meteors from the Geminid meteor shower streak across the sky above the Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, in Arizona. Stretching across the center of the sky is the dusty arm of the Milky Way, arching over the radiant of the meteor shower in the constellation Gemini on the right. This image was captured during the peak of this year’s shower on 14 December 2023.

The Geminid meteor shower is one of the most reliable meteor showers. Like other meteor showers, these fireballs are rocky particles zooming through our atmosphere and brightly burning until they disintegrate long before they hit the ground. The particles from the Geminids come from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, unlike most meteor showers, which originate from comets.

The Mayall telescope is the largest telescope at KPNO and is a great sight alongside the circumstellar phenomena of our Solar System. Around this time last year the Mayall telescope was a supporting star in our Image of the Week of a total lunar eclipse. The telescope is currently home to the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). DESI, led by the US Department of Energy, is acquiring the spectra of tens of millions of galaxies and quasars and has already created the largest and most detailed 3D map of the Universe ever, which is aimed at revealing the effects of dark energy in the Universe. 

This photograph was created by carefully stacking a series of photos, captured within a two-hour period. The foreground and background were stacked separately using the same sequence of images before being recombined into this Image of the Week. 

Rob Sparks, the photographer, is a NOIRLab Audiovisual Ambassador.



About the Image

Release date:Dec. 27, 2023, noon
Size:6960 x 4640 px

About the Object

Name:Geminid meteor shower
Category:Solar System

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