Page last updated at 20:54 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Annual Geminids meteor shower lights up night sky

Perseid meteor shower (SPL)
Geminids was more vivid than a recent meteor shower

Skywatchers in the northern hemisphere have turned their heads upwards to see the annual Geminids meteor shower.

The shower was especially easy to see this year because it is nearly the new Moon, meaning there was less moonlight to obscure it.

The meteors could be seen streaking across the night sky from 2000 GMT; peaking around 2200.

Robert Massey, of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, said about 100 meteors an hour made it a "nice sight".

In August people in the UK were treated to the sight of the Perseid meteor shower.

However, light from the last quarter Moon interfered with viewing.

That shower occurs when Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Earlier this year, in other parts of the world, many people who stayed up throughout the night to witness what was expected to be an intense meteor shower were left disappointed.

The Leonid meteor shower, the best views of which were to have been from Asia, was largely obscured by cloud.

Normally, meteor showers result from dust which has been blown away from comets which have passed near the sun.

The warmth of our star melts part of the icy comet, releasing rock fragments.

The naked eye is usually best for seeing meteors, which can often streak across more than 45 degrees of the sky.

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