Meteor shower to light up sky

Emily AceSouth Western Times
Camera IconCredit: AP

Nature’s best show of the year will be visible for all to see tonight, as the Geminid meteor shower puts on its spectacular annual display.

A meteor is the flash of light in the night sky caused when a small chunk of interplanetary debris burns up as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere.

Karen O’Connor, from Gelorup business The Mobile Observatory, said the shower was the biggest and brightest meteor shower observable in both hemispheres, with 120 to 160 meteors per hour at its peak. This will occur from late tonight to the early hours of tomorrow morning, with 2am offering ideal viewing conditions.

For those unwilling to stay up on a week night, Mrs O’Connor said earlier viewings would still offer a shooting star at least every minute.

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“The Geminids will appear to the north-east, just above the horizon in the constellation of Gemini,” she said.

“Although the meteors will appear to have Gemini as their point of origin, they can appear anywhere in the night sky.

“Simply face north-east and scan the sky to see dozens of shooting stars at its peak.”

Using Orion’s belt as a reference point, Mrs O’Connor said to look to the left for a red star, from which the Gemini constellation is located directly below. She said meteors would still be visible each night across the weekend.

The meteor shower is not the only spectacle star gazers can look forward to this week, with Comet 46P/Wirtanen — also known as the Christmas Comet — set to whiz past Earth at its closest approach in more than 70 years, late on Sunday night.

The green-coloured comet will be at its brightest between December 14 and 18.

“That one to the naked eye may just look like a big fuzzy star, but we recommend people with binoculars have a look,” she said.

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