Mark Your Calendars for a Superb Geminid Meteor Shower

Meteor falling via NASA

On most dark nights, from dusk to dawn, viewers will have a chance to witness 50 or more meteors per hour.

You're more likely to see the shower if you live on the east coast of the USA, given the moon is due to rise about 3.30am, with just a sliver (10% or so) illuminated, meaning its brilliance won't outshine (quite literally) that of the shower.

Every year on about the same dates, Earth passes through swarms of rocky particles associated with the orbits of various comets.

Beginning on Thursday, Dec. 7, the Geminids are said to be one of the most reliable and prolific meteor showers, producing up to 120 to 160 meteors per hour during its peak from Dec. 13 - 14. The greatest numbers of meteors, though, will fall from midnight to 2 a.m. when the radiant point - the stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini - is highest in the sky.

We are in luck this year with only the light from a slender, waning crescent moon to contend with. The Geminid meteor shower will be taking place for the next two weeks, starting tonight (Dec. 4). If you live in the United Kingdom, with its unending proclivity for leaden skies, you may not be so lucky but don't despair; you may still get a chance to see some ethereal pairings of the crescent moon with the planets Jupiter and Mars instead. But some of them will be bright meteors, maybe a few brighter than any star or planet, or even as bright as the moon.

Geminids meteor shower 2017: What is it?

Geminids come in all colors, sometimes have boisterous flaring, bursting flights, and sometimes leave lingering, luminous trails. 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. You'll begin seeing them in the sky as early as 9 or 10 p.m. local time, no matter where you are.

An hour or so before sunrise on December 13, the crescent moon is just above the now dim planet Mars, with Jupiter well to the lower left.

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