Next Wednesday's Geminid Meteor shower is expected to be a brilliant, burning light show.
What if it's cloudy on the big night of the Geminids, Dec. 13-14? Earth, at roughly the same point every year, passes through clusters of rocky particles emanating from various comet-asteroid hybrids.
They also have shown rates as high as 120 meteors per hour. This year should offer a wonderful meteor show. This point or "radiant" is in the constellation for which the shower is named.
The imminent Geminids meteor shower might be just the elevation our spirits need to see out what's been a pretty turbulent year.
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. The thin crescent Moon does not rise until 3:57 a.m. Thursday and will not interfere with the meteor shower.
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The Geminids stand apart from these other events, though. Wednesday evening to Thursday dawn is where it's at.
The Geminids are known as particularly bright meteors, especially when they flash across dark night skies, which December 13-14 should be this year.
With the moon but a slender wisp, conditions could hardly be better for this year's premier shower. For those who do not have access to a riverboat, or simply can't get out of a light polluted area like a densely populated city, it's still possible to see some of the meteorites.
The stars - or at least the Moon - will align this month for a terrific display of meteors. Geminids come in all colors, sometimes have boisterous flaring, bursting flights, and sometimes leave lingering, luminous trails.
When looking at Gemini try to look about 30 to 45 degrees left or right of the constellation to spot the Geminids. The few Geminids that do occur then, however, will tend to be "earthgrazers" - meteors with incredibly long flights, sometimes nearly all the way across the sky.