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Geminid Meteor Shower To Peak Early Tuesday

Len Ly |
December 13, 2010 | 6:49 p.m. PST

Senior Staff Reporter

What astronomers consider the most intense meteor shower of the year-- the Geminid―is expected to peak a few hours before dawn on Tuesday.

A Geminid fireball explodes over the Mojave Desert in 2009. Photo by Wally Pacholka/AstroPics.com/TWAN
A Geminid fireball explodes over the Mojave Desert in 2009. Photo by Wally Pacholka/AstroPics.com/TWAN
“The best time to observe will be about 2 a.m. PST when the moon is down and the constellation of Gemini from which the meteors will appear to come will be high in the sky,” said Don Yeomans, senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. 

Skywatchers should get away from city lights for the best view and can expect to see more than 100 meteors per hour at the shower's predicted peak.

Most meteor showers occur when Earth crosses the orbit of a comet. Geminid is different because it is the only known meteor shower linked to an asteroid called Phaethon, Yeomans said. 

The Geminid shower was discovered in the 1860s and in 1983 astronomers identified the meteors were due to Earth passing through the particles stream left behind by Phaethon as the asteroid orbited the sun. 

This year's suggested window for Geminid-watching is Dec. 12-16.

Reach reporter Len Ly here. Follow her on Twitter here



 

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