Look up: Geminid meteor shower arrives Wednesday night

In the picture, it looks like several meteors are falling at once. That is a trick of the camera. Meteors typically fall one by one, at random across the night sky. (Courtesy of NASA/Jeff Dai, 2012)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Star gazers can thank 3200 Phaethon for a spectacular show expected to light up West Michigan’s sky Wednesday night.

That’s the name of the asteroid that laid down the debris field Earth will pass through at night.

IDEAL CONDITIONS

The subsequent Geminid meteor shower has the potential of being the best and brightest of the year, as the previous Perseids had to compete with a near-full moon.

This year’s display will also likely outshine last year’s Geminid meteor shower, which was obscured by a supermoon. Conditions Wednesday night are more promising, with a faint, waning crescent moon that will not rise until 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

It also looks like West Michigan’s weather will cooperate for a good show. Snow and clouds hovering over the area during the day will begin to clear out late Wednesday evening.

This map shows expected cloud cover over Michigan at 3 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, 2017.

HOW TO WATCH

For the best viewing, look to the sky between 7:30 p.m. and dawn.

Lucky stargazers may see dozens of meteors per hour, with the shower possibly peaking at 60 meteors per hour.

Geminids tend to be brighter and last longer because they enter Earth’s atmosphere at a slower speed of  20 miles per second. Let your eyes adjust and look toward the eastern horizon for the best show.

If you do plan to head outside to watch, bundle up: Wednesday night is expected to be the coldest night so far this season. Temperatures will slip into the single digits for inland areas by daybreak.

This map shows expected temperatures across West Michigan for 5 a.m. Thursday.

If you catch a photo or video of the Geminids, you can send it to ReportIt@woodtv.com. Be sure to include your name and where the photo was taken.

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