Geminid meteor shower to light up the night sky

Geminids are very bright, moderately fast, and are unusual in being multi-coloured.

A Geminid meteor shower will light up the night sky (Danny Lawson/PA)
A Geminid meteor shower will light up the night sky (Danny Lawson/PA)

Skygazers will be treated to a celestial display of shooting stars on Monday, as the Geminid meteor shower illuminates the night skies.

The display, which returns every December, is expected to peak some time during the night of December 13 and will be visible into the early morning of December 14.

Meteors are pieces of debris that enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70km per second, vaporising and causing the streaks of light we call meteors.

Geminids are very bright, moderately fast, and are unusual in being multi-coloured.

(PA Graphics)

They are mainly white, some yellow and a few green, red and blue, partly caused by the presence of traces of metals like sodium and calcium – the same elements that are used to make fireworks colourful.

The shower is known to produce more than 100 meteors an hour at its peak, although light pollution and other factors mean that in reality the actual number visible is far fewer.

The source of the shooting stars is a stream of debris left behind by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, making this one of the only major showers not to originate from a comet.

Skygazers will be able to see the display with the naked eye so there is no need for binoculars or a telescope.

It is best not to look directly at the radiant as this can limit the number of meteors people can see.

Instead, people should look just to the side in a dark area of sky for a better chance of seeing the display.

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