Why the Geminids Are the Best Meteor Shower of 2017

13 December, 2017, 04:51 | Author: Celia Hoffman
  • Geminid Meteor shower on December 13 midnight

"Not only is it the year's most prolific, with up to 120 meteors per hour visible from rural skies, the moon is essentially out of the picture", according to Sky and Telescope.

"Meteors are a bit like buses - you'll wait ages for them to come along and then all of a sudden a whole bunch will come at once", Dr Musgrave said.

The Geminids were first noted as a minor meteor shower back in 1862, NASA's Cooke said.

December's robust Geminids are known to throw as many as 120 bright meteors per hour and can be viewed during the evening hours as well as predawn. However, since the constellation Gemini does not rise too far above the horizon in this region, the showers will be less impressive than the ones seen from the Northern Hemisphere.

You'll want to keep your eyes to the sky Wednesday night. "It's either a near-Earth asteroid or an extinct comet, sometimes called a rock comet".

To increase the chances of seeing meteors, choose a site at least 40 miles from a major city, Astronomy.com said. A meteor a minute is certainly nothing to complain about.

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The best viewing time is between 2 a.m. and dawn Thursday, December 14th.

This year is especially good because the moon will be a thin crescent, so moonlight should not interfere.

The Geminids are the result of Earth moving through the space debris and dust left behind by an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon.

"Phaethon has to be swinging inwards towards the Sun just as Earth is in the right place to cross [under] its orbit", Dr Horner said.

"If you can see Orion and Gemini in the sky, you'll see some Geminids".

This year's arrival of the Geminids and Phaethon is especially welcome because last year, a "supermoon" washed out the meteor shower. Wednesday night the sky will be darker, making it easier to see the shooting stars.

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