Fire meteor spotted in Ningxia Hui
© VCG Photo
Fire meteor spotted in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China.
On December 13, a fire meteor of magnitude -8.1 was detected by a meteor monitoring site in Beijing.

The fireball came from this year's Geminid meteor shower. At 22:51 on December 12, the monitoring site first detected a shooting star of magnitude 1.7. Two hours later, the site observed the fire meteor of magnitude -8.1.

To measure the brightness of stars, astronomers created the concept of magnitude. The greater the magnitude is, the darker the star is. Zhang Chao, a science popularization worker at China's National Astronomical Observatory, told Beijing Youth Daily that the brightness of a fireball is usually greater than magnitude -1, but the brightness of this fireball observed in Beijing reaches magnitude -8.1, which is very rare.

According to the Beijing Youth Daily, the brightness of this fire meteor is 10,000 times than that of Polaris. It's hard to see average meteors in the city, but since it was really bright, it could be observed.

The fireball also marks the start of this year's Geminid meteor shower. Geminid, Quadrantid and Parsed meteor showers are known as three major meteor showers in the northern hemisphere. From December 4 to December 17 is the active period of the Geminid meteor shower.

From the night of December 14 to early morning of December 15 is the best time to observe the Geminid meteor shower. The volume of meteors reaches the maximum in the first half of the night, as the moonlight tapers off, observation conditions will be better.

"Geminid meteor shower is never disappointing." Zhang Chao told Beijing Youth Daily.