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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Geminid Meteor Shower Plus A Bonus

Space.com discusses this year's Geminid Meteor Shower:
Skywatchers around the world are in for a treat tonight, as the annual Geminid meteor shower is poised to put on a spectacular show.
The Geminids will peak overnight tonight (Dec. 13) with the moon at its new phase. The skies will thus be free of the moon's glare, allowing viewers in rural areas to see perhaps 100 or more meteors per hour, experts say.
A new and as-yet unnamed meteor shower may also make an appearance tonight, ramping up the celestial display even further.
"Meteors from the new shower (if any) will be visible in the early evening, with the Geminids making their appearance later on and lasting until dawn," Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a statement.
... The potential new shower's source is a comet called Wirtanen, Cooke said. Earth hasn't run into Wirtanen's debris stream before, but computer models suggest this year could be different.
If the new shower does indeed materialize, it could produce up to 30 meteors per hour tonight by itself, Cooke said. These shooting stars will seem to be coming from the constellation Picses (The Fish), so the shower may end up being called the Piscids.
A few scattered Geminids can be spotted shortly after sunset tonight. The show will really start picking up around 10 p.m. local time, experts say, and it should peak at 2 a.m. or so. You won't need binoculars or a telescope to see the shooting stars; just crane your neck up, preferably in a spot away from bright city lights. 

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