Don’t miss the Geminid meteor shower peak

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Don’t miss the Geminid meteor shower peak

Widely recognised as the best annual meteor shower a stargazer can see, the Geminids are occurring between December 4 to December 17, with the best nights for viewing on December 13 and 14, according to NASA. Sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere can see Geminids starting around 7.30-8 p.m. local time on Sunday, with rate of meteors increasing as 2 a.m. approaches.

In the Southern hemisphere, good rates will be seen between midnight and dawn local time on Monday, the US space agency wrote in a blog post, adding that Geminid watchers who observe from midnight to 4 a.m. should catch the most meteors.

The parent of the Geminids is 3200 Phaethon, which is arguably considered to be either an asteroid or an extinct comet.

When the Earth passes through trails of dust, or meteoroids, left by 3200 Phaethon, that dust burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, creating the Geminid meteor shower.

The Geminid rate will be even better this year, as the shower’s peak overlaps with a nearly new Moon, so there will be darker skies and no moonlight to wash out the fainter meteors.

That peak will happen on the night of December 13 into the morning of December 14.

All meteors associated with a shower have similar orbits, and they all appear to come from the same place in the sky, which is called the radiant. The Geminids appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini, hence the name “Geminids”.

Geminids travel 35 km/s — which is over 1,000 times faster than a cheetah, about 250 times faster than the swiftest car in the world, and over 40 times faster than a speeding bullet.

To observe the Geminids, try to get away from bright lights, lie on your back, and look up.

Stargazers need to allow their eyes to get adjusted to the dark which can take approximately half an hour.

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