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What Makes the Geminid Meteor Shower an Unmatched Celestial Event of the Year?

Experts suggest that Geminid meteors are denser than meteors from other showers. (Image for representation/Shutterstock)

Experts suggest that Geminid meteors are denser than meteors from other showers. (Image for representation/Shutterstock)

The term "Geminids" arises from the fact that they appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini.

The Geminid meteor shower, the most active meteor shower of the year, is expected to produce 100 to 150 meteors per hour. However, because the meteor shower peaks just a few days before the December full moon on December 18, the bright moonlight may interfere with the viewing of any of the dazzling meteors. The 2021 showers are now active till December 17 and will peak on December 14, making those hours the best opportunity to watch the meteor shower.

All meteors appear to originate from the same location in the sky, known as the radiant. However, the term “Geminids” arises from the fact that they appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini. The meteor shower will be most visible in the northern hemisphere, but people in the southern hemisphere will also be able to see some of the meteors, according to Earthsky. At the peak of the meteor showers, astronomers anticipate about 150 Geminids will be visible each hour.

The Geminids are named after the constellation Gemini, which appears to be their point of origin. While some astronomers believe it is an asteroid because of its orbit and resemblance to the main-belt asteroid Pallas, others believe it is an extinct comet based on studies that reveal a little quantity of debris leaving Phaethon’s surface, as explained by NASA in a statement.

Although its origins still remain a subject of debate among astronomers, measurements suggest that Geminid meteors are denser than meteors from other showers, allowing them to fall as low as 29 miles over Earth’s surface before exploding. Other showers’ meteors, such as the Perseids, burn up higher.

In India, the showers will appear about 2 am or after the moon sets post 3 am until daylight. Keep at least an hour on hand to observe the Geminids at their peak. For those who can’t stay up that late, NASA will broadcast a livestream of the meteor shower’s peak using a meteor camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The live stream will be available on NASA’s Meteor Watch Facebook page.

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first published:December 14, 2021, 18:22 IST