NASA scientists and astronomers are predicting the Geminids meteor shower will bring an early Christmas spectacular and are saying that it will be this year's greatest. The best viewing will be in dark sky locations, away from city lights. This is also the most wonderful time of the year for spotting a Geminid meteor.
The Geminid which starts late Sunday night and will continue into Monday morning, is famous for producing more meteors per hour than other showers and for so-called fireballs.
Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini. When the Geminids first appeared in the early 19th century, shortly before the U.S. Civil War, the shower was weak and attracted little attention. There was no hint that it would ever become a major display like the ones we will experience is late day.
They are meteors brighter than magnitude -4, the same level of brightness as the planet Venus. An early-setting crescent moon expected on Sunday will make the viewing experience of these notoriously bright and fast meteors better than ever.
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