As Many as 50 Meteors/Hour at Shower's Peak

3:29 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
A Geminid meteor can be seen in the sky near Warsaw on December 13, 2012 (Getty Images/AFP)
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WASHINGTON,D.C. (WUSA) - If you watched 9News at all today, then you heard Howard and I talking about tonight's Geminid meteor shower, which peaks tonight. In case you didn't know, a meteor shower is caused by Earth's orbit passing through the debris trail behind a comet. It's sort of like passing through the exhaust trail behind a car. Our Earth's orbit takes us through several of these every year, producing a meteor shower each time.

However, the Geminid meteor shower is usually one of the best ones, with about 50 meteors per hour expected. Now it's time for the super-big bonus: Here in the DC Metro area, the weather conditions are ideal for viewing tonight! In fact, I saw 2 meteors just while walking to-and-from my dinner break spot this evening, and I'm sure I'll see more again after the newscast is over.

We are fortunate to have clear skies tonight; obviously, clouds will completely obstruct your view of the shower. It's also a cold and dry night, with low dewpoints. Water vapor diffuses the light from street lamps, buildings, etc, which makes it harder to see the sky above. You've probably heard of "light pollution"... a night with low humidity helps to limit the effect of lights below.

It's also a new moon! The current moon phase makes it appear completely dark to us. Since we don't have the moon's light reflecting down toward us tonight, the sky will be even darker, which allows the meteors to stand out better, making them easier to spot.

So, put on your heavy winter coat, head outside and take a look! Most of the Geminids will originate from the Eastern sky, so you'll want to orient yourself eastward for the best potential viewing. And, you want to get to the darkest place possible, away from street lights, if you can. Enjoy!

 

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