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This movie shows a Geminid meteor. This meteor was seen in December 2002.
Image courtesy George Varros.

Geminid Meteor Shower

Meteor showers are times when you can see a lot of meteors in one night. There are several different meteor showers. Each meteor shower happens at the same time every year. There is a meteor shower in December every year. That one is called the Geminid meteor shower.

The best night to see Geminid meteors is usually December 14th. That night is called the "peak" of the meteor shower. You can usually see meteors from this shower for a few days before and after the peak night. If you are lucky, you might see more than 100 meteors in an hour on the peak night!

During a meteor shower, it looks like all of the meteors shoot outward from one place in the sky. That place is called the "radiant" of the meteor shower. Each shower has a different radiant. The radiant for the Geminid shower is in the constellation Gemini. That is why this shower is called the Geminid meteor shower.

Can you guess where meteors come from? Most meteors in meteor showers are actually dust from a comet! When a comet gets near the Sun and heats up, its ices melt and dust trapped in the ice escapes into space. The dust spreads out over the comet's orbit. When Earth crosses the comet's orbit, we run into the dust - and see a meteor shower!

The Geminids are a strange meteor shower. The meteors in the Geminids come from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Astronomers aren't sure whether 3200 Phaethon is a comet or an asteroid.

Last modified February 3, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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