The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight, with AccuWeather predicting that "up to 120 meteors an hour" will zip across the evening sky.
The Geminid meteor shower
is nearly 200 years old, according to known records. The first recorded observation was in 1833 from a riverboat on the Mississippi River and at Niagara Falls. It was later documented in an original print by Asa Smith that was purchased by Niagara University's Castellani Art Museum
Titled "View of the Meteoric Shower, as seen at Niagara Falls on the Night of the 12th and 13th of November, 1833," as part of Smith's Illustrated Astronomy, the piece was originally aimed at school students, according to Christopher Lane, director of the Olde Philadelphia Print Shop.
"Smith's artistic goal was 'to present all the distinguishing principles in physical astronomy with as few words as possible,' " Lane noted. "His text was presented in 50 separate lessons with a series of questions and answers. The handsome charts of the planets and stars were printed predominantly in black, which makes the images as similar as possible to what one would actually see in the night skies. This particular image records a meteoric shower that took place in November of 1833. The two cataracts are shown from the Canadian shore."
The Geminid meteor shower can be seen every year between Dec. 4-16, with its peak activity occurring around Dec. 13-14. The shower owes its name to the constellation Gemini, because the meteors seem to emerge from this constellation in the sky.
To learn more, contact Michael Beam, the Castellani Art Museum's curator of exhibitions and special projects, at 716-361-8225 or [email protected]