Darkened sky promises a great show by meteors

Astronomy lovers who do not mind missing a little sleep are in for a treat tonight and early Friday. This is the peak time for the Geminids meteor shower.

The meteors out of the constellation Gemini are an annual event. But this year there is a new moon, so the sky will be dark.

The meteors have been visible at times from the middle of last week. The shower will continue until Dec. 17. But late tonight and early Friday is considered the peak time with more than 100 meteors an hour.

The meteor shower is visible around the world in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The flashes of light could be small pieces of an asteroid. Typically meteors come from comets, but the Geminids shower may be an exception. However, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration notes that some scientists believe the source is what is called a rock comet.

It was a NASA satellite that discovered the source of the meteors in 1983. The source is called 3200 Phaethon. Said NASA:

A rock comet is a new kind of object being discussed by some astronomers. It is, essentially, an asteroid that comes very close to the sun — so close that solar heating scorches dusty debris right off its rocky surface. Rock comets could thus grow comet-like tails made of gravely debris that produce meteor showers on Earth.

Expats who are more serious and who seek something more than just a sky show can visit theWeb site of the International Meteor Organization. Amateurs are invited to send in reports on their observations. Plus there is a lot of data about the meteor shower.

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