Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meteor showers Geminids ---plus more!


Dec. 11, 2012:  If you're outdoors after sunset this week, be alert for meteors. Not only is the Geminid meteor shower active as Earth passes through a stream of debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, but also, say forecasters, a new meteor shower could make an appearance.
New Shower (comet, 200px)
Comet 46P/Wirtanen. Photo credit: T. Credner, J. Jockers, T.Bonev / Max-Planck-Institut fur Aeronomie, [more]
"The source of the new shower is Comet Wirtanen," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Dust from this comet hitting Earth's atmosphere could produce as many as 30 meteors per hour."

Computer models run by Russian forecaster Mikhail Maslov predict as many as four stream crossings between Dec. 10th and 14th.

"This time period also includes the peak of the strong annual Geminid meteor shower," notes Cooke.

To sky watchers, he recommends having a "meteor night" after sunset on Dec. 13th, when the criss-crossing debris streams could produce the greatest combined number of shooting stars. "Meteors from the new shower (if any) will be visible in the early evening, with the Geminids making their appearance later on and lasting until dawn," he says.

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