NASA release information on 'prolific' Geminids meteor shower
Geminids are easily the greatest meteor shower of the year, with a bountiful peak and bright shooting stars. The shower traditionally lights up for about two weeks in December and peaks around the middle of the month. This year, the Geminids peaked on the night of Sunday, December 13, into the morning of Monday, December 14.
And if you missed the meteor shower, the good news is you will still have a chance to wish upon a shooting star tonight.
The shower will remain sporadically active until about December 17.
Astronomers at the US space agency NASA said: “The Geminid rate will be even better this year, as the shower’s peak overlaps with a nearly New Moon, so there will be darker skies and no moonlight to wash out the fainter meteors.
“That peak will happen on the night of December 13 into the morning of December 14, with some meteor activity visible in the days before and after.”
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Where to look for the Geminid meteor shower tonight?
Geminids appear to enter the night skies from their namesake constellation, Gemini.
Tom Kerss, host of the Star Signs: Go Stargazing! podcast said: “Rising in the east after sunset, it reaches its highest point in the sky at around midnight and the early hours of the morning.
“The radiant of the shower – the point in the sky from which the meteors seem to originate – is located very close to the twin stars Castor and Pollux, up to the northeast of Orion.
“The meteors travel in every direction away from this region, covering the whole sky.
“So early in the evening they appear to travel broadly from the east to the west, but as the radiant rises, they take on more and more directions.”
What time is the meteor shower visible tonight?
Meteor showers are usually best seen after midnight and just before dawn when the skies are darkest.
On the night of the peak, astronomers typically suggest keeping your eyes peeled for shooting stars around 2am.
But you might be able to see one or two shooting stars now, as the Sun dipped below the horizon around 3.51pm GMT.
The shower’s radiant then rose over London’s northeast horizon after 4pm GMT and will set by 11.41pm GMT tomorrow – although by then it will already be daytime.
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How to see the Geminid meteor shower tonight?
Meteor showers are best seen under pitch-black conditions as light pollution from cars, buildings and street lamps can spoil the view.
Clouds, rain and fog can also hinder your experience, so check your local weather forecast before stepping outside.
NASA said: “If it’s not cloudy, get away from bright lights, lie on your back, and look up.
“Remember to let your eyes get adjusted to the dark – you’ll see more meteors that way.
“Keep in mind, this adjustment can take approximately 30 minutes.”
And remember to keep your phone turned off as the light will make it harder to see the meteors.
What is the Geminid meteor shower?
Most meteor showers originate from a comet or asteroid racing around the Sun.
These icy, rocky objects leave behind a trail of debris that our planet ploughs through at least once a year.
When the debris hits the atmosphere, it burns up at speeds of up to 78,000 mph, creating bright streaks of light.
The shooting stars in the Geminid shower are the rocky debris of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
NASA said: “The parent of the Geminids is 3200 Phaethon, which is arguably considered to be either an asteroid or an extinct comet.
“When the Earth passes through trails of dust, or meteoroids, left by 3200 Phaethon, that dust burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, creating the Geminid meteor shower.
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