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VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14: A Geminid meteor streaks between peaks of the Seven Sisters rock formation early on December 14, 2018 in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The meteor display, known as the Geminid meteor shower because it appears to radiate from the constellation Gemini, is thought to be the result of debris cast off from an asteroid-like object called 3200 Phaethon. The shower is visible every December. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Photo by: Ethan Miller

Ethan Miller

The Geminids Meteor Shower will Grace the Sky Sunday Night

The Geminids are one of the most spectacular annual meteor showers, with up to 120 meteors per hour visible during peak. You can see it on Sunday, December 13 through night all the way up until dawn on Monday.

December 11, 2020

On any given night, random meteors occur when celestial debris sporadically enters Earth’s atmosphere. Meteor showers are more predictable, typically include numerous meteors rather than a random few, and are usually linked to comets.

The careful composite of exposures was made during a three hour period overlooking the Dashanbao Wetlands in central China during the Gemenids Meteor Shower in 2012.

Photo by: Jeff Dai

Jeff Dai

The careful composite of exposures was made during a three hour period overlooking the Dashanbao Wetlands in central China during the Gemenids Meteor Shower in 2012.

When comets approach the Sun, ices on the surface vaporize and stream away from the comet. The gases pick up dust and other small particles and carry them along. Over time this material spreads out over the entire orbital path of the comet.

If Earth's orbit happens to intersect the orbit of the comet, Earth can sweep up these particles. The particles are moving fast—in the case of the Geminids, about 22 miles per second (79,000 miles per hour/127,000 kilometers per hour). This means that when they hurtle into Earth’s upper atmosphere—some 50-80 miles (80-130 kilometers) above the surface of Earth—friction quickly vaporizes them, leaving a streak of light that we call a meteor.

Our friends at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona will go live highlighting the Geminid Meteor Shower. Lowell Observatory astronomer Dr. Nick Moskovitz and research assistant Megan Gialluca will host the event. Special guest Dr. Vishnu Reddy, Associate Professor with the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona, will also join the program. The team will hunt for meteors using the All-Sky Camera at the Lowell Discovery Telescope and explain the nature of meteor showers.

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