Look Up! There's Still A Chance To Catch Geminid Meteor Shower

Dec 14, 2011
Originally published on December 14, 2011 4:58 pm

Every year around this time, the Geminid Meteor Shower is on display. ABC News reports that, yesterday, the shower delivered a pretty spectacular show with some star gazers reporting about 80 shooting stars per hour.

Well, if you didn't get out last night, there's still a chance to catch them tonight. USA Today's Science Fair blog reports:

Meteor showers wax and wane annually and this year the Geminids are giving the best show. "This shower is showing lots of fireballs, some as bright as Venus in the night sky," says Angel Montoya, a museum guide at Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory.

The best views will come in the darkest hours of the night, between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. across the country. Though for much of that time the moon will be visible, washing out the brightest meteors, says Montoya. But if the night sky is clear there still will be lots to see.

Watching meteor showers doesn't require anything more than a warm coat and a dark sky. "All you have to do is look up, you don't have to focus on any particular area of the sky," she says. "Just lie down and look up."

If you need a little inspiration to get out there, here's a video from one observer who caught a fireball, last night, when looking for meteors east of San Jose, Calif.:

And if you need one more push to stay up late, NASA astronomer Bill Cooke explains why Geminid is his favorite meteorite shower:

"Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew ample meteoroids for a night of 'shooting stars.' The Geminids are different. The parent is not a comet but a weird rocky object named 3200 Phaethon that sheds very little dusty debris—not nearly enough to explain the Geminids.

"'Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids' is by far the most massive,' says Cooke. 'When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.'

"This makes the Geminids the 900-lb gorilla of meteor showers. Yet 3200 Phaethon is more of a 98-lb weakling."

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