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Geminid shower set to shoot 150 meteors per hour at its peak

The Geminid meteor shower occurs every year between late November and end of December, providing a spectacular celestial event for passionate stargazers. This year, the shower will peak on December 13 and 14, with up to 150 meteors expected to be visible each other during these two nights. Unfortunately, a bright moon may make the shooting stars more difficult to spot. 

Unlike most meteors that we can notice from Earth, which are debris emerging from comets, the Geminids come from a rather small asteroid called 3200 Phaeton, which was first discovered by scientists in 1983, and has a comet-like orbit, leading many astronomers argue that it may in fact be a “dead comet” or a new type of “rock comet.”

The meteors, which are small pieces of debris from this strange asteroid, will appear to radiate from close to the star Castor in the constellation Gemini. Their glow is caused by friction with the upper atmosphere that heats them up, causing the air around them to shine brightly.

According to experts from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the Geminids are quite unusual, and different from other meteors, since they can be multi-colored (white, yellow, green, red, and blue). These colors are mainly caused by the presence of traces of metals such as sodium and calcium – much like what makes fireworks colorful. Moreover, the Geminids also have a slower closing speed than many other meteors emanating from comets, as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at an angle, travelling at about 79,200 miles per hour.

 “For the best chances to spot the Geminids, find a dark area of clear sky and allow around 20 minutes to let your eyes adapt to the dark,” said Anna Gammon-Ross, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory. “It may also be advisable to lie down as you may be looking up for a long time.”

 “Unfortunately, the waning gibbous moon will make it trickier to see the meteors during the peak night this year. The gibbous phases are when the near side of the moon is over halfway lit up by the Sun, meaning it will appear very bright in our skies. This will make it difficult to see any other celestial objects nearby,” she concluded.


By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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