The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, peaks overnight Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, and you might be able to see a great show on either side of those dates.
If you liked the Perseids meteor shower 2012 in August, the Leonid meteor shower in November or were riveted to the Oct. 17 car-sized fireball that sprayed meteorites over Novato and was spotted flying over Fairfax, you should love this show.
NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sitings occurring in the 1830s with rates of about 20 per hour. Over the decades the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.
"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports.
The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin — its outer covering of ice — after too many close encounters with the sun.
Tips for watching, from Earthsky.org:
Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky. Nothing we can do but hope for that. The higher you can get on a hilltop, the more your eyes will be diverted from reflections of the streetlamps and other lights below.
Know your dates and times. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1-3 a.m. on Dec. 14.
What to bring. You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.
Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time — and hope.
Where is a good place in San Anselmo or Fairfax to watch the show?
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