Geminid meteor shower to peak overnight Wednesday

"The Geminids will be the best shower this year," NASA astronomer Bill Cooke said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 13, 2017 at 9:10 AM
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Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Prepare to be wowed -- and cold. The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight, as temperatures dip across much of the United States.

For those willing to brave the cold -- or for those in Florida -- it's expected to be a show well-worth the extra layers.

"With August's Perseids obscured by bright moonlight, the Geminids will be the best shower this year," NASA astronomer Bill Cooke said in a news release. "The thin, waning crescent Moon won't spoil the show."

The ideal viewing time will last from 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday until the dawn on Thursday morning. The meat of the viewing window will feature the highest concentration of shooting stars.

Most meteor showers happen when Earth's orbit passes through a trail of rocky debris left behind by a comet. As the cometary debris burns up in the atmosphere, fiery trails streak across the sky.

But the Geminids are unique. They're created by the collision between Earth's atmosphere and debris deposited by an unusual object known as 3200 Phaethon.

"Phaethon's nature is debated," said Cooke. "It's either a near-Earth asteroid or an extinct comet, sometimes called a rock comet."

The Geminids are named for the constellation Gemini, from which the shooting stars appear to originate.

If it's too cold or cloudy to see the meteor shower from where you live, uStream will live stream the Geminids tonight.

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