Geminids meteor shower 2017: Can you still see the meteors tonight? | Science | News

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If you missed out on the astronomical wonder, you will be able to view individual meteors until Saturday December 16.

The National Weather Service based in Raleigh in the USA said the meteor shower has reached its peak but it still should be visible over the next few nights as well, but cloud cover will mean the meteors are less visible than last night. 

The peak activity of the Geminid meteor shower took place between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning with around 50 to 60 meteors seen per hour in the night sky.

The best display was visible between midnight and 2am and could be viewed until dawn this morning.

The name of the shower comes from the position in the sky of the radiant, which is the point where all the trails are coming from and in the case of the Geminids, it is the Gemini (the Twins).  

Meteors can travel at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second and are very bright and move moderately fast.

The shower has been known to produce over 100 meteors per hour at its peak, however light pollution and other factors mean that the actual number visible is far less. 

The meteors originate from Asteroid 3200 Phaethon, the debris shed by the asteroid crashes into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at around 80,000 miles (130,000 km per hour) and vaporise as colourful Geminid meteors and cause the streak of light we call meteors. 

Further to this, Asteroid 3200 Phaethon – the origin of the meteors – will be reaching its minimum distance from the Earth on December 16.

Every year the Earth crosses the asteroid’s orbital path and in 2017 it will sweep close to the planet just a few days after the peak of the meteor shower. 

It will come as close as 10.3 millions of km/6.4 million miles to Earth, the closest encounter since the asteroid was discovered in 1983. 

It is flagged as potentially hazardous as it is larger than 100/150 metres, the diameter of the asteroid is 5.1km.

“The minimum distance of Phaethon from the Sun is of 21 millions of km only, less than half that of Mercury, the inner plant of our Solar System,” astrophysicist Gianluca Masi told The Virtual Telescope, which hosts livestreams of meteor showers on their site. 

The Virtual Telescope Project will broadcast a live feed of the Asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

It will begin at 8am GMT on Friday December 15 from Arizona and a second broadcast will begin at 8pm GMT on Saturday December 16 from Italy. 

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