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Shooting stars light up winter sky

A glorious display of shooting stars is set to light up the winter sky on Monday and Tuesday as Earth encounters the Geminid meteors.

In clear, dark conditions up to two meteors per minute may be visible, although some will be faint.

The brightest will appear as yellowish streaks that appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini.

Although the shower's peak occurs at around 1100 on Tuesday, it may be possible to catch the shooting stars during dark periods any time up to Wednesday morning.

The Geminids consist of tiny particles ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pea shed by 3200 Phaethon, an object thought to be an extinct comet.

As the Earth crosses their path they hit the atmosphere at around 22 miles per second and burn up.

A dramatic "fireball" with a green trail that shot across Britain last Wednesday may have been an unusually large Geminid meteor arriving early.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy: "The Geminids are certainly going to be one of the major shows of the year, and there's a good chance it will be a fine display. The forecast is for up to 120 meteors per hour, but that's under perfect conditions."

Earth's orbit carries it through the stream of particles every year in the middle of December.

A spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society said: "As with most astronomical events, the best place to see meteors is at dark sites away from the light pollution of towns and cities. In good weather, rural sites such as Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park in Scotland are potentially excellent locations to see the Geminid shower."


From Belfast Telegraph