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The annual Geminid meteor shower makes its return to the vicinity of the Earth over the period 7th to 16th December, with the peak of activity expected to occur during the morning of 14th December. The shower is usually one of the best of the annual meteor showers with many fairly bright, slow-moving fireballs. Under ideal skies, up to 100 shooting stars per hour may be seen. However, the stronger the local light pollution, the fewer will be the number of meteors seen.

The Geminids appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, The Twins, which lies high in the west in the early morning December skies. However, the yellowish meteors may appear in almost any part of the sky and are unusual in that they appear to emanate from a minor planet rather than a comet.

The near-Earth asteroid, Phaeton, discovered in 1983 using a NASA satellite, appears to be the source of the shower. The Earth passes within 2 million miles of Phaeton’s orbital path each year, and so this minor planet is termed a potentially hazardous asteroid. In the remote past, a collision with another asteroid, or the vaporisation of an ice deposit, appears to have been responsible for the release of the Geminid meteor stream.

This is a broad meteor stream, and it may be worthwhile watching for the Geminids as often as possible between the 7th and 16th December in case there are unexpected outbursts. However, do wrap up well in several layers of warm clothing.

The sky over Armagh at 4.00am Sunday 14th December 2003.
From the Heavens Above web site.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk; Website: http://star.arm.ac.uk/

See also:
Geminid History
Photographing Meteors

Last Revised: 2003 December 2nd
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