Geminid meteor shower expected to light up US skies this week


(NEW YORK) — With mostly clear to partly cloudy skies expected over much of the United States, this year’s Geminid meteor shower is forecast to offer one of the best cosmic shows in recent years, according to astronomers.

Shooting star-like debris from the 3200 Phaethon asteroid, a 3.17-mile wide space rock orbiting the Earth at a distance of more than 6.4 million miles, is expected to be at its peak on Wednesday night, according to NASA.

“The forecast looks very favorable, and that is everything,” Bart Fried, executive vice president of the Amateur Astronomers Association in New York, told ABC News.

In some parts of the county, stargazers can expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour streaking across the sky, according to Fried. But in places like New York City, with its brightly lit skyline, would-be astronomers might see 20 to 30 meteors per hour, or one every two minutes during the peak, Fried said.

He said the best time to view the meteor shower will be between 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday and 1 a.m. on Thursday.

“Do not bother with binoculars or telescopes. This is absolutely a naked-eye event,” Fried said. “Relax your eyes. Let your peripheral vision do the work.”

This year’s peak meteor shower will coincide with a new moon, enhancing the view, Fried said.

“This is a 1% moon, almost no moon,” Fried said. “In terms of light pollution, you want to go to the darkest sight you can find.”

The best view is expected to be from the Northern Hemisphere, according to NASA

For optimal sky-gazing, Fried recommended going to a park or a beach.

“Go to a sight where you have a good horizon,” Fried said. “You don’t want to be surrounded by tall trees. You don’t want to be surrounded by tall buildings.”

Fried, an amateur astronomer for 50 years, also suggested dressing in warm clothes and bringing a lawn chair “because you’re going to be sitting still for a while.”

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced that several Long Island state parks, including Jones Beach State Park and Robert Moses State Park, will remain open during the night hours on Wednesday and into Thursday for those wanting to see the meteor shower.

The National Weather Service is forecasting mostly clear skies over New York and up and down the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday and Thursday.

Considered one of the year’s most reliable meteor showers, the Geminids occur every December when Earth passes through a vast trail of dusty debris shed by a 3200 Phaethon. The debris burns up when it runs into the Earth’s atmosphere, Fried said.

The Geminid meteors are named for the constellation Gemini, from which they appear to come, Fried said.

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