As seen on Astronomy Picture of the Day from a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rained down on planet Earth. Recorded near the shower’s peak in the early hours of December 14, this skyscape captures Gemini’s lovely shooting stars in a digital composite of 30 exposures, each 20 seconds long, from the dark of the Chilean Atacama Desert over ESO’s Paranal Observatory. In the foreground Paranal’s four Very Large Telescopes, four Auxillary Telescopes, and the VLT Survey telescope are all open and observing. The skies above are shared with bright Jupiter (left), Orion, (top left), and the faint light of the Milky Way. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini’s meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second. Add by the photographer: “This image is not a one-shot picture. It was obtained by combining a selection of 30 pictures from a total of 1500 taken continuously that night. So it shows the meteor activity during several hours and not just few seconds. Since Earth rotation provokes the stars to move with respect to the landscape, the selected pictures where registered precisely one by one onto one of them, the base picture containing the foreground in order to have the stars and meteors aligned to the same sky-referential.”



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