Mysterious Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight


Gemini fireball over the Mojave Desert in 2009. (Credit: Wally Pacholka / AstroPics.com / TWAN) 

The most intense (one might say "the best") meteor shower of the year peaks tonight.

The Geminid meteor shower can be seen from almost any point on Earth and at its peak, with a clear dark sky, you can see 50 to 80 meteors per hour. The shower is believed to be intensifying each year, and under optimal conditions 120 to 160 meteors per hour have been seen, including fireballs.

Interestingly, the Geminids are a bit of a scientific mystery. They originate not from a comet, like other meteor showers, but from 3200 Phaethon, "a weird rocky object" according to NASA, that sheds very little dusty debris, not enough to explain the Geminids.

"The Geminids are my favorite," said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke in a NASA.gov article, "because they defy explanation."

The best time to look and wonder is between midnight and sunrise tonight (Tuesday, December 14).

"Geminid Meteor Shower Defies Explanation" on NASA.gov


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