One of the best annual meteor showers – the Geminids – is blazing across our skies this week, with activity expected to peak tonight, right through to the small hours of tomorrow, Wednesday, December 14.
However, stargazers may be disappointed this year – after all, 2016 isn’t over just yet. The meteors’ peak in activity coincides with a full Moon, which also happens to be a “supermoon”, although it won’t appear as big as last month’s one. This is technically known as a perigee Moon and occurs when a full Moon orbits close to Earth.
Unfortunately, it will potentially be bright enough to drown out the meteor shower, making it much more difficult to see than previous years, according to a NASA blog post. On top of that, you’ve also got to hope for clear skies.
It’s a bit of shame, considering this meteor shower is one of the year’s more reliable and excitable astronomical delights. The Geminids meteor shower is essentially just a stream of cosmic debris left from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, and traveling at 286,463 kilometers per hour (78,000 miles per hour). The meteors burn up when they hit Earth’s atmosphere, with each object leaving behind a dazzling tail.
There is some good news if you want to catch the meteor shower. If it is too light or overcast in your area, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will broadcast footage of the shower (pending clear skies there in Florida) starting tonight from 8pm EST (1am GMT Wednesday) until 6am EST tomorrow (11am GMT Thursday) on their Ustream account.