I'm a sucker for the stars. Sometimes when I need to get away from it all, I'll drive out to Horseshew Bend where the light pollution is minimal and just gaze up at the night sky. McCall Idaho is the first time I could see the Milkey Way Galaxy. So I got pretty excited when I heard the best meteor shower of the year starts Wednesday night.
Folks willing to endure some cold and stay up past their bedtimes are about to be treated to the annual Geminid meteor shower this week, which is expected to one of the best of the year.
"Not only is it the year's most prolific, with up to 120 meteors per hour visible from rural skies, the moon is essentially out of the picture," according to Sky and Telescope.
This pre-Christmas display of celestial fireworks will reach its peak during the long, dark hours from Wednesday night (Dec. 13) into early Thursday morning (Dec. 14), Space.com reports.
"With August's Perseids obscured by bright moonlight, the Geminids will be the best shower this year," said Bill Cooke with NASA's meteoroid environment office. "The thin, waning crescent moon won't spoil the show."
Youtube: Donny M
The Geminids are named for the constellation Gemini, the point from which the meteors seem to radiate.
The Geminids are active every December, when Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a weird, rocky object named 3200 Phaethon, Cooke said. The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth's atmosphere in a flurry of "shooting stars."
"Phaethon's nature is debated," said Cooke. "It's either a near-Earth asteroid or an extinct comet, sometimes called a rock comet."
The asteroid has a debris trail in orbit around the sun, and once a year, Earth runs into this dusty path, which intersects our planet's path through space