The Geminid meteor shower, one of the most reliable and intensive of the major annual showers observable in the northern hemisphere, peaked on the night of December 13 to December 14.
According to the International Meteor Organization, an amateur astronomers group that tracks meteor showers, near-peak rates usually persist for almost a day, finally petering out on December 17.
This year, the Geminid shower coincided with the new moon, making the streaking meteors easier to spot. However, despite their intensity, reaching up to dozens of meteors an hour, Geminids’ timing – winter – often makes them invisible because of the clouded skies.
Unlike the better-known Perseids (July-August) or Leonids (November), the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first reports occuring in the 1830’s citing rates of about 20 per hour, according to NASA.
“Over the decades the rates have increased – it is now the best annual meteor shower – and we regularly see between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening,” NASA said last year.
The Geminids, named so because the meteors appear from the middle of the Gemini constellation, are debris left in its wake by asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
(Photo by kevlewis/flickr.com)