(UPDATED Friday, Dec. 13 at 12:30 p.m. with an updated weekend weather forecast for Michigan.)
SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) — If we actually get clear skies this weekend, you’ll have a chance to watch the best meteor shower of the year.
The annual Geminid meteor shower started Dec. 4 and will peak Friday, Dec. 13. Astronomers say it should still put on a pretty good show Saturday night, Dec. 14, too.
According to CNet’s News.com, scientists say the Geminid shower is known for big, impressive fireballs and a rate of 100 to 120 meteors per hour.
Unfortunately, this year’s show also occurs when we’re close to a full moon, which means a sky too bright to see a lot of the meteors.
And the weather forecast for Michigan is certainly less than promising. There’s a winter weather advisory for the Detroit area from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday, with a forecast for 4 to 6 inches of snow, winds of 20 mph and wind chills near zero.
But just in case you peek a starry night sky — better chance of that this weekend would be early Sunday — look up to the east, and you might see a few. It’s also best to get away from as much light pollution as you can.
According to CNet, what’s really cool about the Geminids is that they defy explanation. There’s no comet path we’re crossing. Most astronomers believe that the Geminid light show originates from the remnants of a rocky object called 3200 Phaethon, 3.2 miles in diameter (which would be enough to ruin your whole day if it ever hit Earth — according to the Purdue University earth impact calculator, the blast would set you on fire and cause a 340-mph wind gust 500 miles away, which would be bad enough even without the 9.6-magnitude earthquake, which would be larger than any ever recorded).
“The Geminids are my favorite because they defy explanation,” NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office head Bill Cooke said in a statement. “Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids are by far the most massive. When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.”
For those viewers who want more info while they watch, there’s a live UStream feed from NASA starting at 11 p.m. Dec. 13 that will host Cooke and other experts in a Web chat. A live feed of the skies over the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will also be embedded into the Ustream feed, which will last until 3 a.m. Saturday.