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Reliably Prolific Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks On December 13 - December 14, 2013

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Folks have already excitedly reported seeing at least 50 shooting stars per hour with this year's Geminid meteor shower, and it isn't even peak time yet!

The peak window ----- "that point in time when the Earth encounters the greatest number of particles from a meteor stream," according to EarthSky ----- for the Geminids this year, 2013, will be from late evening December 13th to the pre-dawn hours of December 14. (It should be noted that astronomers agree that the greatest number of shooting stars are usually best seen after midnight and on through to the pre-dawn hours).

Despite the waxing gibbous moon, Geminids tend to be rather bright shooting stars, so don't be discouraged, for you WILL get to see the brighter ones during this year's Geminid meteor shower. There is, of course, that very narrow window when no moonlight interference will occur when the moon sets just before the sun's rays peak at the horizon. Thus, for optimum viewing, head out to spots where there are no city lights and you have a wide open view of the sky. Your eyes physiologically need 20 minutes to adjust to the dark, so take that into consideration during your meteor shower viewing.

Naturally, meteor showers occur in spurts, so don't be surprised if there happen to be lulls, even though on average the Geminids are widely known as one of the year's best meteor showers, with a reliable AND prolific showing of 50 or more (even as much as 90 in some places) shooting stars per hour. They'll likely radiate from the constellation of the mythical twins Castor and Pollux, hence their eponymous appellation.

You'll be able to find the constellation Gemini by first finding Jupiter in the sky. Jupiter is the fourth brightest celestial object in the sky, and it will be beaming brightly near Gemini. Indeed, as planet Venus (the brightest planet in the sky) sets in the southwest, you'll see both Jupiter and Gemini rising in the opposite direction. And, as a general rule, the higher in the sky that the radiant constellation climbs, then the more 'shooting stars' can be viewed.

Geminids are also famous for having some earthgrazers and fireballs. Earthgrazers are slow-moving, long-lasting 'shooting stars.' Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to see them this year.

Interestingly enough, astronomers consider the Geminids to be an oddity because they do not stem from comet debris (unlike other meteor showers). Rather, the Geminids' parent body is a near-Earth asteroid named 3200 Phaethon.

Make sure to prepare for the early morning chill by dressing warmly, having blankets on hand, possibly a lounging chair, and even a thermos of hot chocolate, cocoa, or coffee.

And, if you happen to have a good photo of your experience, consider submitting it to the Space.com Photo Contest to win a prize. You'll have to 'like' their Facebook profile in order to access the contest. For more information on Space.com's Photo Contest, click here.

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