New Geminid Meteor Shower to Peak, but Weather Forecast Shaky

The most reliable meteor shower of the year is on its way. However, skies might be rainy above Laguna Niguel and Dana Point.

Correction: An earlier version of this article linked to a video that showed disintegrating space debris, not a meteor shower.

If you're hoping to see what could be the year's most spectacular show in the sky, the Geminid meteor shower 2012, things are iffy.

The Geminids peaks overnight Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, and the weather forecast for Laguna Niguel  and Dana Point calls for rainy skies to begin the overnight, with and possibly into Thursday afternoon.

If you can get to a dark area with some elevation, perhaps the area up in Laguna Niguel around the top of Pacific Island Drive, you might be able to see a few meteors, says Niguel Middle School science teacher Marguerite Gaspar.

You can get an idea of just how great the show could be from some spectacular photos of the Geminids.

If you liked the you should love this show. Why? Because the Geminids is relatively young, NASA reports, and over the decades the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.

Tips for best viewing

Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. (EST) on Dec. 13 and 14, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.

"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports. "Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14." 

More tips for viewing, from Earthsky.org:

You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.

What are the Geminids?

The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.

Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin -- its outer covering of ice -- after too many close encounters with the sun.

Most meteors meet the Earth's atmosphere, burning up in a brilliant light show, when the planet passes through the tail of a comet as the comet's orbit nears the Earth.

Strangely, the Geminids appear not when a comet's tail swings by, but when the Earth comes in contact with the particles associated with an indistinct, rocky object that doesn't have a tail, detected by NASA in 1983 and named 3200 Phaethon. Scientists speculate that 3200 Phaethon may be a chip from a nearby asteroid.

Are the predictions for the 2012 showers reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.

Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time — and hope.


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