Star-gazers are in for a treat this week when the annual Geminid meteor shower reaches its peak on Wednesday and Thursday.
“Spectators of the Geminid meteor shower can expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour shoot across the night sky,” explained NASA, in a statement. “These bright streaks of light will appear when tiny remnants from an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon interact with Earth's atmosphere.”
NASA notes that most meteor showers are the result of comet remnants, so the Geminids are special because they originate from an asteroid.
The EarthSky website notes that the meteor shower favors the Northern Hemisphere, but will also be visible in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sky-watchers, however, will not have to find the point in the sky where the meteors originate, which is known as the “radiant point” of the shower. “The meteors will appear in all parts of the sky,” explained Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd on EarthSky. “It’s even possible to have your back to the constellation Gemini and see a Geminid meteor fly by. However, if you trace the path of a Geminid meteor backwards, it appears to originate from within the constellation Gemini.”
In a statement, NASA's Meteroid Environment Office Bill Cooke explained that the Geminid shower should make up for the disappointment of the Perseids meteor shower in August. "With August's Perseids obscured by bright moonlight, the Geminids will be the best shower this year," he said. "The thin, waning crescent Moon won't spoil the show."
"Geminid activity is broad," Cooke added. "Good rates will be seen between 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 and dawn local time the morning of Dec. 14, with the most meteors visible from midnight to 4 a.m. on Dec. 14, when the radiant is highest in the sky."
The meteor shower will peak overnight Dec. 13-14 according to Cooke, with rates around one per minute under good conditions.
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