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Geminid meteor shower set to peak Thursday evening

The annual Geminids meteor shower will reach its peak late on Thursday night and into early Friday morning.

The meteors will appear to radiate from a point near the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini.

In the Northern hemisphere, that will be westward and nearly overhead in the early hours of Friday.

Sky watchers can expect an average of dozens of “shooting stars” per hour, made easier to see by darkness provided by the “new moon” phase.

The shower comes about each year as the Earth passes through the path of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

The asteroid leaves behind a trail of rocky debris that the Earth ploughs into each year – debris moving at 35km per second that burns up in the atmosphere in what can be spectacular displays.

According to the International Meteor Organization, the “radiant” – the apparent point from which the meteors seem to come – will be visible from sunset in high northern latitudes, rising at about midnight local time in the southern hemisphere.

“For those old enough or tough enough to stay up until two in the morning, then the radiant point [in the Northern hemisphere] is almost overhead so you could basically look anywhere and see them,” Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society told BBC News. “Go outside, wrap up well, get yourself into a comfortable chair, relax, and enjoy the view.

“It could be 30 [meteors] an hour, it could be 100 an hour. But those are only average figures – there may be a period of 10 minutes that you don’t see anything, but equally there may be a period of 10 minutes when you see 30.”

The Geminids are less well-known relative to other annual meteoric performances such as the Perseids, in part because December weather often threatens a clear view of the show.

For the UK that may again be case; BBC Weather reports that southern Scotland and the North of England will have clearest conditions into Friday morning but conditions will tend towards cloudy and windy across the UK through the night.

Source: BBC News

Category: World News |

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Last updated December 8, 2016 at 12:39 AM
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