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Backyard Astronomer: The Geminid Meteor Shower

This must-see event may bring some bright fireballs across the night sky.
Experience the Geminid meteor shower the night of Dec. 13, and into the early hours of Dec. 14.

Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), as well as past president of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC.

The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak on the night of Dec 13 into the morning of Dec. 14.

This shower will produce up to 120 meteors per hour with some bright fireballs.

Annual meteor showers are produced when Earth crosses debris fields from comets as we orbit the sun, this is why various showers occur at the same time each year.

In the case of the Geminids, Earth will encounter tiny sand-sized particles from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon with some gravel size pieces producing bright dramatic fireballs that will light up the sky as well as the ground.

The meteors will harmlessly vaporize some 80 km above the ground at a slow 35 km/sec compared to the Perseids in August at twice that speed.

A few meteors can be seen starting at about 7 p.m. locally when the constellation is low in the northeast.

Greater numbers will be seen as the constellation rises higher throughout the night.

The moon will not interfere this year. This is a must-see event!