Science

Geminids meteor shower set to peak this week

Geminids meteor shower set to peak this week

And if it's cloudy where you are, NASA will broadcast the Geminid shower live via Ustream starting at sunset December 13 from the Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. If you trace the paths of the Geminid meteors backward, they all seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini the Twins.

A bright meteor shower will light up the city sky for a few hours between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

This year's display should be particularly good, NASA says, because the moon is a thin, waning crescent this weekend, so it's unlikely to obscure the show. Peak activity isn't expected until about 1 a.m. Astronomers are predicting 120 meteors an hour, which is probably a best-case scenario, but even half that many "shooting stars" is worth the effort of standing outside on a cold winter night.

I'm referring to the arrival of the annual Geminid meteor shower, which is a big deal this year for a number of reasons.

If the weather doesn't cooperate on the night of December 13, don't worry.

Hundreds of bright meteors will illuminate the night sky as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

Last year, the Geminids had to compete with a pesky supermoon.

This shower's radiant point almost coincides with the bright star Castor in Gemini. If you can stay up late, the hours between midnight and 4 a.m. local time offer the potential to see the most meteors, according to NASA.

But, as always, the best recommendation is to get somewhere truly dark if you can. The meteors will appear in all parts of the sky. The Leonids appear to fall from Leo the Lion, the Orionids from Orion, and the Geminids from Gemini.

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How to see the meteor shower?

You can to see how Earth passes through the remains shed by the asteroid.

So, if you have clear skies and plan to fearless the elements, head to a dark location and look up.

Can you see them in South Mississippi?

Astronomers first observed the weak meteor shower in the mid 1880, but the Gemini's have since been gradually intensifying every year.

The Geminids peak every year around this time in mid-December, but many fail to notice them because it's not only a busy time of year, it's also chilly for us northern hemisphere dwellers.

Interestingly, on December 16 the asteroid - discovered in 1983 - zips past Earth roughly 10 million kilometres away.

Gemini rises in the east around 10 p.m., but the later it is, the better your chance at seeing some meteors, as the constellation gets higher in the sky where it's darker. Look closely, and you'll see that Zubenelgenubi is a double star - two stars in one!


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