Geminid Meteor Shower 2012: Shooting Stars Peak Thursday

Geminid Meteor Shower 2012: Shooting Stars Peak Thursday

Geminid Meteor Shower 2012: Shooting Stars Peak Thursday

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by ABCNews.com

WHAS11.com

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 6:42 PM

(ABC News) -- "Button up your overcoat...Get to bed by three...."

With apologies to Helen Kane, who made those song lyrics famous in 1929, you may want to stay up late tonight or get up early Friday morning, even as winter approaches. The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight -- usually one of the best of the year, and early indications are that it's already putting on a good show.

Earth is passing through the orbit of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, and astronomers think we're seeing its debris -- shooting stars, more than 50 per hour, many of them no larger than grains of sand, burning up as they plow into the atmosphere.

Scientists think the Geminids could have some extra punch this year. There is a comet called 46P/Wirtanen, discovered in 1948, and we could pass through the trail of debris from its orbit tonight as well. It would be the first time on record -- two meteor showers at once.

"Dust from this comet hitting Earth's atmosphere could produce as many as 30 meteors per hour," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office on the NASA Science News page.

A little quick arithmetic -- 50 plus 30 per hour -- means it could be a lively night in the sky.

For more, click here.

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