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The best chance to see the strongest meteor shower of the year is this week.
Known for bright, intensely colored meteors, the Geminids have been streaking the night sky since late November, and the shower will peak on the night of December 13-14. according to the American Meteor Society.
“If you had to single out one[meteor shower]as the best of the year year after year, it would be the twins,” said Robert Lunsford, the society’s fireball report coordinator. “Typically, say from the suburban area, under good conditions, you could probably see 30 to 40 meteors (an hour).”
Under clear skies and with no bright lights in the way, the Gemini can appear at a rate of about 120 visible meteors per hour. according to NASA. However, there is no escaping the big flare in the sky that will eclipse most of the fainter meteors this year: the moon will shine at 72% brightness, according to the American Meteor Society.
“It’s still going to be a good shower, even with the moon,” said Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “Find a decently dark sky, find something blocking the moon, maybe a building or a tree, and look up at the sky away from the moon.”
Hear the loud bang that officials believe was a meteor hitting the atmosphere
– Source: CNN
First observed in the mid-19th century, the shower initially only delivered a maximum of 20 visible meteors per hour. Since then, the twins have reappeared every year and continue to grow in number. By the 1960s, the event had transcended the essentials August Perseids, once the heavier shower with hourly rates of 50 to 100 meteors.
It’s unclear how the Geminids might change anytime soon, Cooke said, with some models suggesting the shower’s intensity will increase and others predicting a gradual decline over the next few decades.
The Gemini are unique in that their source is asteroid 3200 Phaethon, while most other meteor showers are born from debris from icy comets. This is why twin streams can be unpredictable — because asteroid bursts are harder to model, Cooke said.
Asteroid 3200 Phaethon is unusual in itself, behaves like a comet as it approaches the sun. It also has an orbit, which it completes about every 1.4 years, that’s closer to the sun than any other asteroid. When 3200 Phaethon is near Earth, the asteroid sheds its dusty debris, hence the depiction of the Geminids.
Meteor lights up the night sky over Texas and four other states
– Source: CNN
The twins are active from November 19th to December 24th, according to EarthSky, but their hourly rates won’t hit double digits until Dec. 10, Lunsford said.
The shower is known for being family friendly a good observation for young viewers in North America as it is the only big shower that shows most activity before midnight. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini, which will rise in the sky around 10 p.m. ET, Lunsford said.
“You can look at when the radiant is highest, which is between 1 and 2 a.m. ET by moonlight, or you can try to look earlier in the evening when the moon is still below the horizon,” Lunsford said. “Prices will likely be quite similar at these times as well.”
The Gemini will be visible from all parts of the world, but for the southern hemisphere, the best time to see them is in the middle of the night at 2 a.m. local time, as the radiant must be at its highest to be seen. The radiant’s position will be low on the horizon and also cause the meteors to appear at a slower rate, Lunsford said.
According to NASA meteor camera data The Geminid shower is among the best for producing fireballs, meteors brighter than the planet Venus, second only to the Perseids, Cooke said. The largest and brightest twin meteors are often said to be greenish in color.
The moon’s illumination has affected the Geminids for the past two years, but the meteor shower is expected occur around a new moon in 2023, create perfect viewing conditions.
“When you see a meteor burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, you’re looking at something that has been in space for a very long time,” Cooke said. “From a scientific point of view, by studying, we can learn about what these comets are made of. To the casual observer, they are nice fireworks (display) – meteor showers are nature’s fireworks.”
The next and final major annual meteor shower of 2022 will be the Ursids, peaking on the evening of December 22nd. according to EarthSky.
Observe the most visible fireballs from Earth
– Source: CNN