Science

Geminids 2019: ‘King of the meteor showers’ to light up sky next week – how to watch?


The Geminids meteors are cosmic debris from “extinct comet” 3200 Phaethon, first discovered in 1983. A spokesman for NASA said: “With a diameter of about 5km, Phaethon is the third largest near-Earth asteroid is classified as potentially hazardous.”

At three miles (5km) across, the asteroid is one of the largest ever discovered in Solar System and is approximately half the size of the Chicxulub space rock which helped to wipe out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

The space rock has been named after the son of the Greek sun god Helios who pulled the Sun across the sky.

According to Greek legend, Phaethon attempted this but lost control of the Sun and almost destroyed Earth.

The asteroid used to be far bigger but pieces of it have crumbled away following successive orbits around the Sun.

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“However, due to the bright moonlight during this time, you may have more luck spotting meteors nearer the start of the shower in early December.

“Hunting for meteors, like the rest of astronomy, is a waiting game, so it’s best to bring a comfy chair to sit on and to wrap up warm as you could be outside for a while.

“They can be seen with the naked eye so there’s no need for binoculars or a telescope, though you will need to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.

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

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