The Geminid meteor shower
by Claire Law
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To consider the spectacle of the Geminid meteor shower, which occurs every December.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Shooting Stars) and the means to display them.
- Have available the YouTube video ‘Geminid meteor shower dazzles night skies’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 1.15 minutes long and is available at: https://youtu.be/opAOcl0Vpb4
- Explain that you are going to show four slides, and you would like the children to guess how the images are connected. Ask the children to raise their hand if they spot the link.
- Show Slides 1 to 4.
Ask the children, ‘What do these four images have in common?’
Listen to a range of responses.
- Point out that each image shows some kind of shower.
Show Slide 5.
Here, we see a rain shower. If you’re caught in a shower, it’s good to have an umbrella to hand.
Show Slide 6.
These women are attending a baby shower, where party guests celebrate the imminent arrival of the baby and bring gifts.
Show Slide 7.
Here, we see a shower in a bathroom. Hopefully, you’ve had a shower recently and are feeling fresh and clean!
Show Slide 8.
This is a different type of shower altogether. It is a meteor shower known as the Geminids, which happens every December.
- Explain that a meteor shower happens when Earth passes through the path of a comet or asteroid. As a result, debris - most of which is no larger than a grain of sand - creates streaks of light in the night sky as it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere. A meteor shower consists of hundreds of these shooting stars.
- Ask the children whether they have ever seen a shooting star.
Listen to a range of responses.
- Tell the children that it is possible to predict when many meteor showers will happen, because they occur at the same time each year. The Geminid meteor shower occurs every December, and peaks around 14 December, which is when there is the best chance of seeing it. At the shower’s peak, 120 Geminid meteors can be seen per hour under perfect conditions. They are often visible to the naked eye.
- Explain that you are now going to show the children a short video that gives us a taste of what it’s like to see the Geminids. It was filmed during the 2020 Geminid meteor shower.
Show the YouTube video ‘Geminid meteor shower dazzles night skies’ (1.15 minutes long).
- Explain that experts have provided some tips on how to increase our chances of seeing a meteor shower or shooting star.
Show Slide 9.
Try staring at one point of the sky for around 20 minutes, rather than scanning across the sky. This requires patience, and you need to be standing or sitting comfortably so that you can remain focused on the same area.
Show Slide 10.
It also helps to look at the sky on a clear night, where cloud cover won’t obscure your view. So, keep an eye on the weather forecast, and choose a clear night.
Show Slide 11.
To increase your chances, aim to find a place where there is less light pollution. Cities and large towns are less likely to provide the darkness that is needed. If possible, take a trip with your family to a more rural location, away from streetlights.
This map of the UK shows areas of light pollution: the darker sections are where we are least likely to experience light pollution, providing a better chance of seeing a shooting star.
Time for reflection
It is easiest to see meteor showers and shooting stars in darkness, on a cold, clear night. During an otherwise dark night, we may well see something beautiful that lights up the sky.
Show Slide 12.
In the Bible, in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, John talks about Jesus as ‘the light’ and says, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
For Christians, this belief that Jesus brings brightness into dark times in our lives provides a sense of hope.
So, let’s think about what brings us a sense of hopeful brightness when we face darkness. Who, or what, are the stars that shine in our life?
Pause to allow time for thought.
Thank you for all the beautiful lights that we see at Christmas.
Thank you that light brightens up the darkness.
Please help us to be lights in the lives of other people.