Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Geminids

The Geminid meteor shower is coming up! At 2:00 AM, on December 14 (that's Thursday night, or Friday morning), you can see anywhere from 100 to 150 meteors per hour - depending on the sky and weather conditions. That's more than 1 meteor per minute!

This particular meteor shower comes from a 5.1 km wide asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. Flecks of debris fall off this asteroid in a trail around the sun. These bits are called meteoroids.

Every year, in December, Earth passes through this stream of meteoroids; when one of them enters Earth's atmosphere, it burns up and we see a meteor. If the meteor is brighter than Venus, it's called a fireball. Fireballs are much less common than meteors.

This year, viewing conditions will be especially good; the peak occurs only 1 day past new moon. If you live in an area with lots of light pollution, you will definitely want to drive into the country. If you think the weather will be bad, go out a day or two before or after the peak. Keep warm, and good luck!

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