Geminid Meteor Shower, One of the Year's Most Prolific, to Peak Next Week

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One of the year’s most prolific and spectacular meteor showers will take to the skies this month, and it will hit its peak in the coming days.

According to astronomers, the Geminid meteor shower will hit its peak on Dec. 13 and 14, with an estimated 120 meteors per hour visible under the right conditions.

NASA scientists describe the meteor shower as one of the “best and most reliable” shows, and the streaks of light can be visible in all portions of the sky during the peak of the shower.

Residents interested in watching the meteor shower are encouraged to take a series of steps to maximize their success. Finding areas away from city and street lights is a critical component, and if possible, residents are urged to lie on their backs, with their feet facing toward the southern horizon, and to look upward.

While the meteor shower’s “radiant point” is technically in the Gemini constellation, where it derives its name from, meteors should be visible across the sky, according to officials.

Aside from the conditions, patience will also be a key ingredient. It will take your eyes around 30 minutes to adjust fully to the dark, and once they do, you’ll be able to see a lot more meteors.

Finally, the timing of when you go outside will be key. With moonrise occurring later in the evening, looking upward after 8 p.m. or so is generally your best bet to see the show, according to NASA scientists.

While most meteor showers take place as the Earth goes through the trails of comets that have passed by us, the Geminid meteor shower is actually the result of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

That asteroid, which takes approximately 1.4 years to orbit around the sun, is only 3.17 miles across, but as Earth passes through its remnants, residents in the Northern Hemisphere are treated to a remarkable celestial show.

The Geminid meteor shower was first observed in the 1800’s, but it was also much smaller, only leading to 10-to-20 meteors per hour at its peak.

It has grown significantly since then, according to officials, and is now one of the most prolific meteor showers on the calendar.

For those curious about such things, the asteroid is only 3.17 miles across, and while it passed within 6.4 million miles of Earth in 2017, it is highly unlikely to strike the planet any time soon, as its next-closest approach won’t occur until at least 2093, according to NASA.  

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