Geminid meteor shower to dazzle holiday stargazers

Canadian stargazers looking to kick off the holiday season with some fireworks may get a gift from the cosmos as the weekend comes to a close.

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The Geminid meteor shower is set to peak Sunday, and through to Monday morning, offering viewers a dazzling celestial show of between 30 to 120 shooting stars per hour.

Andrew Fazekas, astronomy columnist for National Geographic, said that if there are clear skies, the optimal viewing time is likely 10 p.m. ET.

"It comes around like the Old Faithful, because it never fails to please," Fazekas told CTV’s News Channel on Sunday morning.

"It is considered one of the best showers."

While stargazers in rural areas will likely get the best display because of the relative absence of lights, city dwellers should still see between 20 to 30 shooting stars per hour, Fazekas said.

The Geminids usually fail to attract as much attention as August's Perseids meteor shower, but Fazekas said the notion that the December event is inferior is misguided.

Fazekas said the Geminid shower is “actually better” but it is typically ignored because “it is near the holiday season” and occurs when cooler temperatures make for less-than-ideal stargazing conditions.

"People don't think about it too much, but really it is a beautiful celestial fireworks show."

Geminid meteors whiz across the sky from all directions, and NASA says the best way to get a good look is to lie on the ground and look straight up at the stars.

"What you're going to see is basically sand green-sized particles that are hitting the atmosphere at incredible speeds of about 30 kilometres a second," Fazekas said.

"At those speeds the … particles burn up due to friction as they hit the upper atmosphere of the Earth, and it produces this streak of light across the sky."

The Geminids are leftover debris from an extinct comet known as 3200 Phaethon.

The Earth passes through the debris every year in mid-December.



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