NASA: Tuesday, Wednesday Meteor Shower Last Big Sky Show Of 2011

By: April Davis
By: April Davis

NASA says The 2011 Geminid meteor shower peaks on the night of Dec. 13-14, and despite the glare of a nearly-full Moon, it might be a good show.

Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office says observers could see as many as 40 Geminids per hour.

Scientists say the best time to look is between 10:00 pm Tuesday, December 13th and sunrise on Wednesday. Geminids, which spray out of the constellation Gemini, can appear anywhere in the sky.

NASA says the source of the Geminids is near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Most meteor showers come from comets, so having an asteroid as a parent makes the Geminids a bit of an oddball.

Every year in mid-December, Earth runs through a trail of dusty debris that litters the orbit of 3200 Phaethon. NASA says comets vaporizing in hot sunlight naturally produce such debris trails, but rocky asteroids like 3200 Phaethon should not. They're not supposed to. The incongruity has baffled researchers since 1983 when 3200 Phaethon was discovered by NASA's IRAS satellite.


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