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Forecast calls for shooting stars -- Geminid meteor shower expected to put on quite a show

Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid Meteor shower peaks Wednesday night and is expected to be the best shooting star show of the year. Under ideal conditions far from any city lights and in a wide open area, it's possible to see up to 120 meteors per hour. If you live near a city, there will be enough ambient light to significantly reduce that number so realistically, expect 40-60 meteors per hour.

Viewing conditions will be particularly good this year thanks to clear skies and only a sliver of the moon visible after 3:45 a.m. Additionally, because it's wintertime, we don't have that typical summer haze that has a tendency to obscure fainter meteors.

Geminid meteors numbers tend to intensify as evening deepens into late night. The greatest numbers of meteors will likely fall between 11pm-4am, but you can spot a modest number of meteors as early as 9pm. You don’t need to look in a single direction since the meteors will appear all over the sky!

Usually, meteors occur when Earth plows through a cloud of dust left behind by comets. The Geminid meteors are different. They occur when Earth passes through the dusty debris shed by an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon.

The majority of meteors are no bigger than grains of sand. Because these tiny objects are moving through our atmosphere at an extremely high speed (80,000 mph) they have vast amounts of energy. As they encounter our atmosphere, friction causes them to burn up and that energy is converted to the light we see.

The Geminids are fun to watch because the meteors travel at a slower speed than most other annual showers, which means the streaks last longer. These meteors produce brilliant streaks of light that are visible for at least a second or two.

Enjoy the show!

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