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The Best Meteor Shower of the Year

12/12/2007 12:00:00 AM

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Every year, on December 13 and 14, you can count on some spectacular (and free) entertainment from Mother Nature. It's the Geminid meteor shower, and it's a definite must-see.

According to NASA, you will begin to see them after 10 p.m. Thursday night, and the shower will accelerate as we approach dawn on Friday the 14th.

This is my favorite meteor shower of the year, because cold December temperatures usually make for clear, crisp skies. Plus, it's different than the others. Did you know that most meteor showers spawn from comet debris trails? Not the Geminids — this is a highly unusual circumstance in which the particles shooting through Earth's atmosphere actually belong to an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. Asteroids usually don't have debris trails, and no one is certain why this one does.

The differences don't stop there. The asteroid is classified a 'potentially hazardous' near-Earth-asteroid that comes within 2 million miles of Earth's orbit. That doesn't mean you should start looking for fallout shelters from the Cold-War, just that it may be visible from backyard telescopes.

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