Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

The Geminid meteor shower is peaking right now: Here’s how to watch

The Geminid meteor shower is peaking right now: Here’s how to watch

The shower is expected to light up the skies from 4:00 am - 9:00 am on Saturday, 15 December.

"You'll read elsewhere of 120 Geminids visible per hour at shower peak, but this is how many you'd see from the darkest sky with the radiant directly overhead".

The Geminids result from the mysterious asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which, thanks to periodic heating from the Sun, has left a trail of material in its orbit.

The meteor shower is a effect of dust and grit burning when it enters the Earth's atmosphere. The sky will be darker this year due to the new moon happening just a few days before the shower's peak. Moving at about 79,000 miles per hour, the Geminids can look as bright as planet Venus, according to USA Today. The shooting stars appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, hence the name.

The American Meteor Society noted the Geminids are the most dependable meteor shower each year but December's chilly and often cloudy conditions detract from its popularity.

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The comet will be visible to the naked eye when it flies by Sunday. If you live in Utah, you can expect the show to start just after 11 p.m. when the moon sets. In reality, even those in rural areas will probably see one per minute. Ideally, one should try to watch it at a less polluted area, away from the cities and lights.

According to AccuWeather, people in the central USA will have the best view of the meteor shower, while those in northwestern and eastern states will mostly see clouds. Be patient and know that it can take your eyes between 20 and 30 minutes to adjust to the dark. Scientists have debated the very nature of what Phaethon is. According to NASA, the object could be either an extinct comet or a near-Earth asteroid. By 2 a.m. on Friday the constellation Gemini will be nearly directly overhead and predictions are for as many as 60-120 meteors per hour!

The unique space rock, which demonstrates characteristics of both comets and asteroids, orbits the sun every 1.4 years and comes so close to the star that it's surface gets heated to about 1500°F (800°C).

According to Sky & Telescope, the Geminids are only behind August's Perseids when it comes to fireballs. That's because the shooting stars do not come at regular intervals.

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