Meteor shower to hit this weekend

Last updated 08:27 14/12/2012

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Stargazers are in for a celestial treat this weekend when space debris hits the Earth's atmosphere and lights up the night sky in an annual meteor shower.


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Occurring each year in mid- December, the Geminid meteor shower will be visible over the next five days, peaking tomorrow and on Sunday mornings from 2am until sunrise.

Carter Observatory programmes officer John Field said meteor showers were a trail of dust and debris left by a comet.

They are caused when rubble from the comet hits the Earth's atmosphere, lighting a path through the sky as it burns out.

"Geminid meteors are quite slow- moving and leave a trail like fairy dust," he said.

In the densest regions of debris, sky- watchers could expect to see a meteor every one to two minutes, he said.

No telescopes or binoculars would be required to see the show.

Mr Field said observers should lie back in a dark place and look northwards to see the meteors. They will appear to be emanating from a point in the sky in the constellation Gemini.

The shower will be seen all over the world in the next few days, although from the bottom of the South Island visibility may be limited.

Last year, light from a full moon hindered a clear view of the shower, but the new moon phase this year would ensure a dark night sky and good visibility of the shower, Mr Field said.

Geminid's meteor shower came from the debris of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. It follows August's Persieds and October's Orionid's meteor showers.

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- The Dominion Post


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