If you missed out on last month’s Leonid meteor shower, don’t worry. Space and astronomy newsgroups report what very well may be the best meteor shower of the year will occur this coming Sunday and Monday.
Occurring in mid- December, the Geminid meteor shower is often the most reliable meteor shower of the year — you may see 30 to 60 meteors an hour. This year, newsgroups are reporting that the Geminid meteor shower’s peak is the night of December 13th and 14th of this year. According to NASA related newsgroups, the shower has intensified in recent years and researchers are curious if the trend will continue this year. There are many predictable meteor showers during the year, but most of them are not very spectacular, producing only a few more meteors than the background rate of five to 10 random meteors per hour.
As comets go around the sun, they also leave tiny grains of debris along their orbits. When the Earth crosses the orbit of a comet, it encounters this debris train, and we get a meteor shower. This year, the meteor shower appears during a new moon, so the sky should be dark and meteors should be easier to see.
The Geminids were quite weak when they were first identified in the late 19th century, but have intensified in those 150 years. In 2006, NASA astronomers observed at least five Geminid meteors crash into the moon. The shower derives its name from the fact that the meteors look like they are originating from the Gemini constellation.