Really bright Geminid meteor shower could be coming

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When judging these light shows, the number of meteors visible per hour is sometimes used as a proxy of brightness.

The meteors of the Geminid meteor shower, which hits its peak the night of Wednesday, December 13, into the morning of Thursday, December 14, could be particularly bright this year.

The Geminids have historically been one of the most brilliant meteor showers of the year.

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For the Geminids, that number can go as high as 120 meteors per hour.

Meanwhile, those elsewhere needn't despair; the shower is expected to last 10 days, from Thursday, 7 December to Sunday, 17 December.

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No special equipment is required to watch the Geminids meteor shower - just a dark, open sky and the means to stay warm. This year should offer a wonderful meteor show.

During a meteor shower, most of the meteors appear to come from a point in the sky. The Leonids appear to fall from Leo the Lion, the Orionids from Orion, and the Geminids from Gemini.

The other reason why this year is astronomically favorable for the U.S.to see the Geminids is the exact timing of Earth's encounter with the central section of the meteoroid swarm. Most meteor showers are the dust of comets from previous passages through Earth's orbit.

Unlike many meteor showers identified with active comets, the Geminids are now known to be produced by debris left behind by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1982. The shower is first known to have been spotted by observers on a riverboat running along the MS river in 1833.

In some years, the moon is at a large phase all or most of the night and its bright light washes out our view of most of the meteors. That being said, you'll have to temper your expectations according to where you live; the light pollution in cities can impede visibility considerably, with numbers dwindling to around 10-15 per hour.

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