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Clear viewing (before bedtime) for tonight's Geminid meteor shower

Clear viewing (before bedtime) for tonight's Geminid meteor shower

A meteor shower lights up the sky over the Mexican volcano Popocatepetl near the village San Nicolas de los Ranchos in Mexican state of Puebla in the early hours of December 14, 2004.

It's known as one of the best and most magnificent showers of the year.

The presence of a Waning Crescent Moon next week should also improve the viewing conditions by keeping the skies dark.

Anyone who can get away from city lights can get a good view of the show, which is expected to peak around 10:00 p.m. with one-to-two meteors a minute. Last year's supermoon cast extra brightness into the night sky, which diluted the visual impact of the Geminids, a particularly showy meteor shower. Depending on where you are (most of MA, for example), cloudy skies will make meteor shower watching a non-starter tonight.

The Geminid meteor shower gets the name from the constellation Gemini, though the constellation is not the source of the meteors.

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The meteor shower appears annually when Earth passes through the point where its orbital path intersects with a stream of debris cast off from the asteroid 3200 Phaeton. The bits of rock and debris burn up when they hit Earth's dense atmosphere, and streak across the sky.

After today's snowstorm ends, several parts of MI should have clear skies overnight when the Geminids peak, from about midnight to 4 a.m. People across the country can watch a meteor shower display if clouds and light pollution do not play spoilsport.

But if you are a constellation aficionado, don't focus mainly on the Gemini constellation. You don't need a telescope or any other special equipment to safely view the meteor shower. Don't forget to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.

You may have already seen some shooting stars across the sky the past few nights. That's about 4:30 p.m. CST in Huntsville, Alabama, where NASA's Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory is located.

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