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Get ready for the Geminid meteor shower

A Geminid meteor streaks across the sky.

(Jimmy Westlake / NASA)

Star-gazers are in for a treat this week during the annual Geminid meteor shower reaches its peak on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Spectators of the Geminid meteor shower can expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour shooting across the night sky,” said NASA in a statement. “These bright streaks of light will appear as small remnants of an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon interaction with the atmosphere of the Earth.”

NASA notes that most meteor showers are the result of comet remnants, so the Geminids are special because they come from an asteroid.

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The EarthSky website points out that the meteor shower favors the Northern Hemisphere, but will also be visible in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sky-watchers, but not to the point in the sky where the meteors originate, which is known as the “radiant point” of the shower. “The meteors appear in all parts of the sky,” according to Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd at EarthSky. “It is even possible to have your back to the constellation Gemini and see a Geminid meteor flying. However, if you trace the path of any Geminid meteor backward, it seems to originate in the constellation of Gemini.”

In a statement, NASA’s Meteroid environment office Bill Cooke explained that the Geminid shower should make up for the disappointment of the Perseids meteor shower in August. “With August the Perseids obscured by the bright moonlight, the Geminids are the best shower this year,” he said. “The thin, waning crescent Moon will not spoil the show.”

“Geminid activity is broad,” Cooke added. “Good to see rates between 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 and dawn local time, in the morning of Dec. 14, with the most meteors visible from midnight to 4 am on Dec. 14, when the radiant is highest in the sky.”

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The meteor shower will peak overnight Dec. 13-14, according to Cooke, with rates of about one per minute under good conditions.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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