I was just outside trying to set up my new telescope, get it collimated and see it I can get it properly polar aligned. It is a nice little telescope, Celestron AstroMaster 114 EQ-MD. It is actually not as good, optically, aperture wise, or even focal length wise, as my 600mm lens with a 2x teleconverter. The telescope has a 114mm aperture on a 1000mm focal length, where as my 600mm lens has a 150mm aperture. The key reason I purchased it was it was an insanely good deal, $180 when it is normally around $470. It comes with a basic equitorial tracking mount with a simple motor drive option. While a really basic telescope, I have the option of either mounting my camera with a wide field lens on the telescope for tracked wide field astrophotography, or as it turns out, I could even attach my 600mm lens and DSLR directly onto the mount. I think the lens and camera are just a little too heavy, but I may be able to find some heavier counterweights to balance it all out. Would then be like having a $2000 high quality refractor on a super cheap mount. :p
Anyway, tracking mounts aside (I’ll have to see over the coming weeks whether I can make something out of it or not), I saw a number of Geminid meteors tonight. It is one day early, but they are already starting to fly. I must have seen five or six in the last hour, and they are all VERY bright. The moon is a very large and bright waxing gibbous, and these few Geminids I’ve seen were easily brighter. They are short, usually last for a few seconds, but they are pretty brilliant. So, despite the fact that the moon is going to be intruding upon the show tomorrow, it looks like it will still be a pretty good show. This is the beauty of the Geminids…they are rather different than most other showers, they never reach “meteor storm” levels where there are thousands in the sky at a time (like the Leonids have on many occasions…back in the mid 1800’s the Leonid meteor shower achieved legendary status with several hundred thousand meteors per hour, although they certainly were not quite as large and bright as the Geminids), they are a trusty yearly meteor shower that always puts on a pretty good show. On top of that, the ZHR has been increasing on average year over year (as measured by sattelites) so the show sounds like it will only get better in years to come. This year is a full moon year, which means the next two to three years should have a better show, with waning half, new moon, and waxing half phases, meaning the viewing will be even better.
So, if you like to watch meteor showers, the Geminids kick it into high gear tomorrow night (Friday) at 9pm, and the show should stay at peak until 10pm or so. Both before and after the ultimate peak, rates should still be relatively high, so I recommend getting out there by 8:30pm, and stick around until they stop.