- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 12, 2015


Those who find wonder and good cheer in the prospect of a major meteor shower are in luck this weekend. The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Sunday and into the wee hours of Monday; under ideal circumstances, viewers could see 100 shooting stars an hour. Some glow white, others appear yellow, green, or blue. Geminid meteoroids hit earth’s atmosphere traveling 78,000 mph, this according to NASA, which has called the Geminids the “900-lb gorilla of meteor showers” in years past.

The event has already won accolades from the experts, including NASA astronomer Bill Cooke, who calls the display his “favorite.”  In a previous report, Mr. Cooke noted, “Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids’ is by far the most massive. When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.”

All the activity debris originates from an object hurtling along through space called 3200 Phaethon,  classified as an “extinct comet.” There’s some history at work as well.

“Basically 3200 Phaeton 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,” NASA says in a public advisory released Saturday.

“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.”

Space.com hosts a live program here. Slooh - a robotic telescope service which includes multiple member observatories - will offer a live video feed of the Geminids here, beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday.

NASA offers intriguing factoids about this years meteor shower here. Mr. Cooke and other NASA astronomers will take questions on Twitter from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via #askNASA or @NASA_Marshall beginning at 9 p.m. ET Sunday night, and until 2 a.m. Monday.

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