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Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Geminid meteor showers light up the sky
Geminid meteor shower
Geminid can produce 100 shooting stars every hour at its peak

Star-gazers are being urged to stay up late and enjoy one of the best displays of the Geminid meteor showers for some years on the night of 14 December 2010.

The National Trust has cited Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire as one of the seven best locations to view the meteors.

The peak of activity was expected on Tuesday morning, however, cloud cover meant that very little could be seen.

Astronomers say that the display will last until the early hours of Wednesday 15 December.

Dr Carolin Crawford from the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge said: "The later you can stay up, the better. After midnight when the moon has set is probably the best time."

She admitted that conditions were not ideal on Monday night into Tuesday morning, when Geminid was expected to be at its peak.

"It was pretty rubbish because of the thick cloud cover here, and I didn't see any meteors myself," Dr Crawford said.

"But it's supposed to be much clearer tonight so there's a good chance of seeing something later."

Rocky asteroid

The annual Geminid meteor shower can deliver up to 100 shooting stars per hour at its peak.

The fragments, which burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, travel at 126,000 km/h and are thought to come from a rocky asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered by NASA's Infrared Astronomical Satellite in 1983.

Astronomers say that its orbital match with the Geminid meteors is so close that it must be the source of the meteors.

If you want to try spotting the showers on the night of Tuesday 14 December, Dr Crawford gave the following advice:

"The key thing is to go somewhere dark where there aren't any street lights.

"But the main thing is that you don't need a telescope or any specialist equipment. Just go outside and look at the sky with your eyes.

"Meteor showers are so unpredictable, it's always worth looking just in case this year's display is particularly good."

Star-spotting

The National Trust has listed the seven best locations in the UK to see the Geminid meteor:

• Wicken Fen nature reserve in Cambridgeshire, because of its dark skies and nocturnal wildlife.

• Black Down in Sussex, the highest point in the South Downs.

• Teign Valley in Devon, within Dartmoor's national park.

• Penbryn Beach, on the Ceredigion coast in west Wales.

• Stonehenge area in Wiltshire, a chalk downland with crystal clear skies.

• Mam Tor in Derbyshire, an escape from the bright lights of cities such as Sheffield.

• Friar's Crag in Cumbria, jutting out into Derwentwater.




SEE ALSO
Meteor showers light up the sky
12 Aug 10 |  People & Places
Perseid meteor show reaches peak
13 Aug 09 |  Science & Environment

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