Geminids this Wednesday ‘could be a really dynamite show’

WASHINGTON — Attention, stargazers: the orbiting object spewing space dust that creates the Geminid meteor shower will be closer to Earth than it has been in recent memory.

“So, it’s a possibility that this could be a really dynamite show this year,” U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomer Geoff Chester said.

The jury still is out on whether the object named 3200 Phaethon is formerly an asteroid or a comet.

What is known, is that the Geminid meteor shower is expected to produce up to 120 meteors an hour during its peak Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Shooting stars also will be evident on the nights before and after.

“The shower stays active for pretty much the entire month of December in some form or another, but the real peak activity is on that night of the 13th to the morning of the 14th,” Chester said.

In the D.C. metro area, begin to look for the show before about 10 p.m. when the brightest stars in the Gemini constellation will rise above the horizon.

Chester notes that the intensity of the shower has been slowly growing since it first was described in the 1860s.

“It really, I think, is becoming the best of the periodic annual meteor showers,” Chester said.

Compare the times of year when the Geminid (December) and Persied (August) meteor showers occur and it may be clear why it seems more people are familiar with the Persieds.

It comes down to the difference between enjoying a summer evening among fireflies or stargazing with frozen fingers.

“Which would you rather do, to be honest?” Chester said.

Overnight low temperatures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are projected to be 23, 28 and 29 degrees respectively.

NASA will livestream the Geminid shower beginning at 9 p.m. on Dec. 13, from the Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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