Geminid meteor shower to show its beauty entirely tonight

42701.jpegThe Geminid meteor shower, one of the year's best displays of "shooting stars," will peak tonight and tomorrow morning.

Even though stargazers will have to put up with a first quarter moon, the Geminid meteor shower is still expected to produce more visible meteor activity than the other major showers that don't have an interfering moon.

Under good skies, the Geminids normally offer some 50 shooting stars an hour. Best viewing will be from 10 p.m. through 6 a.m. But, as with all meteor showers, the best viewing will occur after midnight, Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports.

The Geminids consist of tiny particles ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pea shed by 3200 Phaethon, an object thought to be an extinct comet.

As the Earth crosses their path they hit the atmosphere at around 22 miles per second and burn up.

A dramatic "fireball" with a green trail that shot across Britain last Wednesday may have been an unusually large Geminid meteor arriving early.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy: "The Geminids are certainly going to be one of the major shows of the year, and there's a good chance it will be a fine display. The forecast is for up to 120 meteors per hour, but that's under perfect conditions."

Earth's orbit carries it through the stream of particles every year in the middle of December, The Press Association reports.


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