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Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Dec 13

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This article was copied from CNN...

If it's clear where you are on Monday night, bundle up, head outside and look up. One of the best meteor showers of the year will peak on Dec. 13.

The Geminid meteor shower, which returns every December as the Earth passes through a debris trail from asteroid 3200 Phaethon, is usually one of the year's best celestial shows. Between 11 pm local time Monday and sunrise Tuesday morning, you may see one or two shooting stars per minute under clear dark skies. Even in areas with a lot of light pollution, the brightest meteors should be clear and sharp.

Part of what makes the Geminids so spectacular is that they travel more slowly than meteors from other showers. They can take several seconds to blaze across the sky, and sometimes leave a brief trail of glowing smoke.

The Geminids get their name because they appear to fly from near the stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini. From the northern hemisphere, Gemini is in the eastern sky in the evening and high overhead after midnight.

Other famous meteor showers, like the Perseids in August and the Leonids in November, have been observed for hundreds or thousands of years. But the Geminids showed up suddenly in the 1860s. It took astronomers another 120 years to figure out that the asteroid 3200 Phaethon was the shooting stars' source. Most meteor showers are linked to the debris left in the wake of a comet, but the Geminids were the first to be connected to an asteroid, suggesting that 3200 Phaethon may actually be an extinct comet.

To check when the best viewing times are in your area, check out this flux calculator applet developed by two meteor hunters at the SETI Institute.



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