Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight December 13 and Early Dec 14 2010

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Be sure to catch your shooting stars tonight!

This Christmas season we will get an extra treat as the Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight as it makes its annual appearance. The peak of the shower will start at midnight tonight and last through sunrise for your local time. Astronomers consider this the best meteor shower of the year, with counts of more than 100 individual meteors streaking across the sky every hour. This show will be the most visible in the Northern Hemisphere, and is easily seen without any optical aids, just your eyes will do fine. The shower does last for several weeks before and after that date, and there have been several reports already of people witnessing huge fireballs streaking across wintry skies this year.

The Geminids origin is from space, as they are rocks that are celestial leftovers. Every December, our planet passes through this stream of rocky leftovers from 3200 Phaethon, once thought to be an asteroid, but now considered to be an extinct, or comet without ice. Another concept of the The Geminids is that they are unusual in that they are also thought to be the remnants of a passing asteroid, not a comet. These meteors, or shooting stars as some so choose to call them, can appear anywhere, but almost always seem to fall from the Gemini constellation, hence their moniker. Meteors occur when tiny bits or particles enter the atmosphere and burn up from the heat of entering our atmosphere, thus looking like shooting stars or fireballs. They are small in size, thankfully, not like the ones we see in the movies that wreak havoc on the planet.

For those of you whom don’t wish to stay up late or get up early, there should be a decent showing tonight, December 13th, 2010 once the sun sets. Actually, some meteors may be visible in the night sky from December 12 to 16 as long as the skies are clear, of course. This is considered a warm up for the night of Dec 20th, 2010 and wee hours of Dec 21st, when we will have a total lunar eclipses. It turns out to be the only full lunar eclipse of the year and the whole event will be visible in North America, Central America, a bit of South America, Greenland and Iceland. If you are going outside to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower when it peaks tonight, dress warm, as temperatures are to be cold tonight for much of the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere!

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