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Watch or listen to the Geminid meteor shower Thursday and Friday night

A Geminid meteor shower

The meteor shower will peak on the nights of December 13th and 14th. Kalamazoo Astronomical Society President Richard Bell says the best time to start looking would be around 10pm until dawn. 

Bell says this meteor shower is called the Geminids because the light appears to shoot out of the constellation Gemini. Bell says the way this shower is formed is a little different. Instead of the earth passing through the path of a comet, the Geminid meteor shower happens when the earth passes through the path of an asteroid—specifically one called 3200 Phaethon.

“We know that some asteroids in the outer asteroid belt—further away than asteroids closer in—are covered in ice. And we do think that’s a lot of the water on earth came from, from these icy-rich asteroids,” says Bell. “Somehow this asteroid probably got knocked out of its orbit, comes kind of near the sun and crosses near the earth’s orbit and leaves little bits and pieces of itself behind as it erodes. We cross through that path and then we have a meteor shower.”

Mike Sinclair teaches astronomy at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center and is also a member of the KAS. He says the meteor shower happens every year around this time. Though the meteor shower is very reliable, it can be hard to see because of cloud cover. Bell says mid-December in Michigan is about as cloudy as you can get. But Sinclair says, not to worry, there are other ways you can enjoy the shower.

“You can use an FM radio, and if you tune to a frequency between stations—with the old fashioned tune ear type—you can hear the sizzling or this kind of popping. And that’s when one of these is hitting the upper atmosphere and ionizing the upper atmosphere. So you can actually pick it up on FM radio, but it’s not the same as seeing it.”

Bell says you might be able to see the shower through a live webcast.