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Posted at 12:02 PM ET, 12/13/2010

Geminid meteor shower peaks Monday night -- best shower of the year

By Melissa Bell
A Geminid fireball explodes over the Mojave Desert, Calif. on Dec. 13, 2009. (Wally Pacholka/

Would-be astronomers, get your star gazing seats primed. NASA officially promises a showstopper Monday night. The Geminid meteor shower will be the best meteor shower of the year, and it peaks between midnight and sunrise.

The Geminids are rocky debris that the Earth encounters every year around this time, but scientists have never really been able to explain their existence. They are likely dust particles from an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, which is unusual. Most meteors come from comets. Also, the debris shed by 3200 Phaethon is not enough to explain the Geminids. Even so, the Geminids' annual show has gotten bigger and brighter each year.

What is known is that the shower will shoot off long fireballs in the night sky and can be seen from almost anywhere on the planet. The meteors should show even in spite of some light pollution. As I was reminded in the comments, the meteors can be seen with the naked eye, and most astronomers recommend viewing the shower without any equipment aside from a mug of coffee and a blanket to lie on.

NASA will be hosting an online chat with astronomer Bill Cooke. He'll be taking questions through the night's show.

By Melissa Bell  | December 13, 2010; 12:02 PM ET
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It's been a great year for meteor showers. I observed the Geminids two years ago and it was amazing! I've found great viewing information on this site: - Hope you all enjoy tonight's show!

Posted by: AllPointsHelp | December 13, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Can I just go outside and look up?

Or do I need a telescope and/or some prior planning about where/when to look?

Posted by: KeithW2 | December 13, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

telescopes and binocs are useless during a meteor shower. just a comfortable chair, one that preferrably reclines, and good weather are needed.ENJOY!

Posted by: astroman215aolcom | December 13, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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