Geminid Meteor Shower may be more impressive this year - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Geminid Meteor Shower may be more impressive this year

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TOLEDO, Ohio -

   The quiet weather tonight and tomorrow night should give us a chance to see some shooting stars.

There is something that might make this meteor shower unique.

 

     As the Geminid Meteor Shower begins, we spoke with Dr. Michael Cushing, an astronomer at University of Toledo.  "The Geminid Meteor Shower happens once a year, it usually peaks around the night of December 13th into the morning of the 14th.... During a meteor shower, the earth actually passes through a trail of debris that is left from a comet or asteroid as it orbits the sun.  As we pass through that cloud of material, we get an enhanced number of meteors.... Most are the size of a pebble or small rock.  This is just "space junk," floating around, and every day, many of these particles fall toward the earth. As they encounter the atmosphere, they're moving at thousands of miles per hour. There's a lot of friction as they hit the atmosphere, and they heat up. ... Just like a space shuttle, these particles heat up as they enter the atmosphere, and they glow, and that's what you see as they streak across the sky."

     Occasionally, small pieces of rock will reach the ground - but the atmosphere acts as a shield.

     "It protects us from most of these small pieces, so most don't make it down. They have to be very big to make it to the surface of the earth," Dr. Cushing said.  "Meteorites are what actually hit the ground, so you've got to hit the ground before you're called a meteorite."

     There's something unique about this meteor shower, which might enhance the number of meteors.

     Dr. Cushing explained, "there's another comet that's out there, also leaving a trail, and there is a chance that the trail from that comet could also contribute to this meteor shower.  ... To see them, you don't need to look anywhere specific. They'll be in any part of the sky. Depending on how bright the sky is, you might see a few an hour, 50 an hour, 100 an hour. The ideal viewing time will be just after midnight."

     The skies will be mainly clear over the next couple of nights, and another thing that will help us to see the meteors a bit better is that there's a new moon.  In other words, there won't be much moonlight, tonight.

     To see the most meteors, try to get as far away from the city lights as possible.

     Astronomers say the peak viewing time will be around 2 AM, on Thursday night, but some will also be visible tonight.

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