The year’s most intense meteor shower is set to peak in the night sky this week — and Canadians can catch a glimpse.
The Geminids meteor shower will peak on the night of Dec. 13 and into the next morning, treating viewers to as many as 120 meteors an hour. Each meteoroid travels at 35 kilometres per second.
Geminids, which come from an extinct comet called the 3200 Phaethon, penetrate deeper into the Earth’s atmosphere than other meteor showers. NASA explains that means the fragments create longer arcs in the sky that are viewable for up to two seconds.
The celestial show is expected to be particularly clear this year — if the weather co-operates — as it falls days before a new moon, meaning the sky will be darker.
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Onlookers will be able to see the event as soon as the sky darkens Wednesday night. The shower can be seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, according to NASA.
“Good rates will be seen between 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 and dawn local time the morning of Dec. 14, with the most meteors visible from midnight to 4 a.m. on Dec. 14, when the radiant is highest in the sky,” NASA scientist Bill Cooke explained on the organization’s website.
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Canadians across the country can get a view of the event. The best bet is to find a secluded spot outdoors with clear skies, and minimal city lights. No binoculars or telescopes are needed. But EarthSky advises viewers to set aside at least one hour because it takes about 20 minutes just for eyes to adjust to the dark.
Website Dark Sky Finder can help locate a nearby area away from city light pollution.
For those who can’t get out and view the dazzling light show, NASA will broadcast it Wednesday night from its Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory in Alabama.
The meteor shower peaks Wednesday, but those who miss it might still be able to see some activity until Dec. 16.