Geminids: The king of meteor showers peaks December 13 and 14

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Geminids meteor shower peaks on the night of December 13 and the morning of December 14th, 2017. This is a major (Class I) meteor shower producing up to 120 meteors per hour, some of them bright enough to be classified as fireballs. Since the Moon will be 26 days old at the time of peak activity, it will present minimal interference.

The Geminid meteor shower, also known as the King of meteor showers and considered by many as the best and most reliable meteor shower, is capable of producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour. Many of them are bright enough to be classified as fireballs, so don't be surprised if you see an uptick of fireballs in the days ahead. The only other meteor shower competing for the first place as the best annual meteor shower is Perseid meteor shower in August.

Geminids are bright and fast (35 km/s / 22 mps) and tend to be yellow in color.

Provided you can watch them under a cloudless sky, you might see one Geminid every minute or two, from 22:00 local time on December 13 until the dawn of December 14th.

The Moon will be 26 days old at the time of peak activity, presenting minimal interference. To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30 – 40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

The source of this meteor shower is believed to be asteroid 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1982. The asteroid needs 14 months to orbit the Sun once and its diameter measures about 5 km (3.1 miles).

Geminids first began appearing in the mid-1800s. However, with only 10 – 20 meteors per hour, the first showers were not noteworthy. Since then, Geminids have grown to become one of the most major showers of the year.

Featured image credit: NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser, NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office

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