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All you need to know about the Geminids meteor shower

At its peak, 150 Geminid meteors, or shooting stars, can be seen every hour under perfect night sky conditions

 The year’s best meteor shower, the Geminids, peaks tonight.
The year’s best meteor shower, the Geminids, peaks tonight. (AP)

Stargazers are in for a treat as the Geminids meteor shower, one of the most awaited meteor showers of the yearm, is set to reach its peak activity on Thursday night. This year, moonlight from the waxing crescent moon will not interfere with the Geminids—a perfect time to watch the ‘shooting stars’.

According to Nasa, the Geminids first began appearing in the mid-1800s. Initially, only 10 to 20 meteors were seen every hour. But now at its peak, 150 Geminid meteors can be seen every hour under perfect conditions. These bright and fast meteors are known to be the most reliable showers.

Also read: Explained: All you need to about the Perseid meteor shower

The peak of the meteor shower occurs just at the time the Geminids are highest in the sky from Earth's eastern longitudes, which means people might get to see the best natural fireworks of the year, a Press Trust of India report says.

Talking about the Geminids, meteoroid expert Bill Cooke said in an Associated Press report that he loves that they have a greenish hue as they speed across the sky and burn up. Most meteors appear to be colorless or white depending on their chemical makeup. Green usually comes from oxygen, magnesium and nickel, the report adds.

This shower is associated with the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, a blue rock that acts like a comet which orbits the sun every 1.4 years, a report explains. When Earth passes through the debris of Phaethon they heat up as they enter Earth's atmosphere and burn up in bright bursts of light.

While the Geminids are best observed from the northern hemisphere, Geminid meteors can also be seen from the southern hemisphere. As meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate, this one is named after the Gemini constellation. The shower is best viewed during the night and pre-dawn hours and is visible across the globe due to a nearly 24-hour broad maximum, according to the Nasa website.

To see the Geminid meteor shower, find the darkest possible location where there is no light pollution. There is no need for special equipment such as telescopes or binoculars. The best time to see the shower will be between the evening of 14 December and the morning of 15 December.

Also read: When is an aurora not an aurora?

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