Geminid meteor to display this Wednesday

Muriel Hammond
December 12, 2017

What really makes this meteor shower so lovely to witness is its comet-like orbit along with the presence of shooting stars.

The Geminids are unusual in that they are not shed by a classic icy comet but a body that shares characteristics of both comets and asteroids.

"The meteor shower activity varies from year to year, and it is often a complicated matter to predict how attractive a shower will be".

While the shower carries on throughout the month of December, it will reach its visual peak between the 13th and 14th of December.

On a typical night, you might expect to see a handful of meteors per hour-anywhere from two to 16, according to the American Meteor Society, depending on the time of day and year.

This stunning wonder of nature takes place as our planet travels through the tail of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, which is due to brush nail-bitingly close to our planet on December 17. It's all part of the Geminid Meteor Shower, which can produce some of the brightest meteors.

You should be able to see shooting stars as soon as night falls, but the best views tend to come between 2am and 3am. This object, which was discovered on October 11, 1983, will come very close to Earth this time, 26 times farther away than the moon, thereby putting on a spectacular show.

The Geminids can be observed with the bared eye under clear, dark skies over most of the globe, though the best show is from the Northern Hemisphere.

Like the supermoon, you can watch the meteor shower sans special glasses or a telescope.

To increase the chances of seeing meteors, choose a site at least 40 miles from a major city, said.

In the D.C. metro area, begin to look for the show before about 10 p.m. when the brightest stars in the Gemini constellation will rise above the horizon.

The shower is named for the constellation Gemini, from which the meteors appear to emanate. Give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. You can find this by first identifying Orion with its three-star belt. Expect around 20 to 60 per hour.

The shower will peak at rates around one per minute under good conditions on the night between December 13 and 14, Cooke explained.

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