Meteor shower to light up the skies

Stargazers are in for a treat for the next week, as the Geminid meteor shower returns to the UK’s skies.

The Earth will pass through the debris cloud from Apollo asteroid 3200 Phaethon from December 8 to December 17, with the thickest concentrations of dust expected on Monday 14, when around 100 meteors per hour can be expected.

Although the peak concentration will be at 1pm GMT on Monday, meteor rates should still be very high on the nights of Sunday 13 and Monday 14.

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The timing couldn’t be better for stargazers - with a new moon in the sky there should be little light pollution from our nearest neighbour washing out the spectacular light show, although for optimum viewing, a spot away from the glare of streetlights is recommended.

Sky-watchers would also be advised to wrap up, with temperatures at the weekend dipping to around 7 degrees Celcius at night.

Peak darkness will be around midnight GMT and particles set to hit our atmosphere at around 22 miles (35 kilometres) per second will be visible as they burn up immediately due to air friction.

The Geminid shower is the first in an exciting month for amateur astronomers as a Christmas Eve visit from the International Space Station - and of course, Santa Claus - can also be expected.

More on that later - keep watching the skies…

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