Look up! Geminid meteor shower peaks Wednesday night
The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight! It has a reputation for being a good one and this year it looks like both the weather and the moon will cooperate.
This shower is known as the Geminids because the radiant point is very near the star Castor in the constellation Gemini (the Twins). The interesting thing about this meteor shower is that it's the first from an asteroid and not from a comet. The parent is Phaethon, an asteroid discovered in 1983 and it orbits the sun every 1.4 years. Some say this could be a "dead" comet, as it has no icy shell.
It comes very close to the sun, closer than any other asteroid, so that's enough for it to crack and shed some dust.
It's a rich shower known for its fast and bright meteors. The average speed of a Geminid is 78,000 mph and they burn up about 45 to 55 miles up in the atmosphere. Earth cuts through Phaethon's orbit the first three weeks of December, passing through the core on the night of Dec. 13-14. The shower ends around Dec. 17.
The constellation Gemini rises in the East and will be high enough on the horizon after about 9 p.m. to view. The radiant point is near Castor, one of the twins. If you aren’t familiar with where to look – it’s near Orion. Often that constellation is unmistakable and can even be seen in the not-so-dark skies in the tri-state.
Don’t worry about looking directly at the constellation because the meteors can appear anywhere. Just keep your eyes open. Dress in warm layers because temperatures will be quite cold. Often when out looking for meteors, you’ll spend a lot of time outside in the dark, so be prepared.