Geminid Meteor Shower: Last and Most Intense Meteor Shower of 2012 Peaks Tonight

The most reliable meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, is on its way — with no moon to obscure the show.

The Geminid meteor shower, the final major meteor shower of 2012, is what NASA calls the most intense of the year and will peak overnight Dec. 13 to 14. 

If you liked the Perseids meteor shower in August, you should love this show. 

The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate. NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sightings occurring in the 1830s with rates of about 20 per hour. And this meteor shower defies explanation, according to NASA astroner Bill Cooke. Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew meteoroids for a night of "shooting stars." The Geminids are different in that the source is not a comet but a weird, rocky object named 3200 Phaethon, now classified as an extinct comet, that sheds very little dusty debris — not nearly enough to explain the Geminids.

"Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids' is by far the most massive," Cooke says. "When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500."

Over the decades the Geminids' rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.

How spectacular is it? Just take a look at some photos of the Geminids.

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