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Send us your photos of the intense Geminid meteor shower this week

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 Geminid fireballs are inexplicably bright, scientists say. The annual meteor shower is considered one of the most intense and mysterious showers of our time. (AP Photo/AstroPics.com, Wally Pacholka) Sky-watchers are gearing up for a celestial light show that not even the world's most expensive holiday display could top - and this one is completely free.

The Geminid meteor shower, described by scientists as the most intense shower of the year, is set to peak between Dec. 13 and 14.

It can be viewed from anywhere on earth and lasts for days, producing as many as 120 meteors per hour in dark sites with clear weather according to NASA.

Best of all, no fancy equipment is needed to enjoy the vibrant streaks against a dark sky (though we would recommend wearing a warm jacket if you're viewing it from the Northern Hemisphere.)

"The Geminids are my favorite," said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke on the agency's website, "because they defy explanation."

What are the Geminids?

The Geminids have been described by many as mysterious. While most meteor showers come from comets, Geminids are actually spawned from a weird rocky object named 3200 Phaethon.

3200 Phaethon was discovered by NASA's IRAS satellite in 1983 and was long though to be an asteroid. It is now classified as an extinct comet - the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many brushes with the sun's heat.

Every December, Earth passes through a stream of debris surrounding 3200 Phaethon.

Sand-sized pieces of the debris (Geminids) enter earth's atmosphere and produce a spectacular show of fireballs.

The shower was first noticed in the early 19th century when it was much weaker. It attracted little attention then, but has grown brighter and more intense in the recent past. This year is predicted to be no exception.

How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower


This year, the shower will take place during a new moon meaning that the sky will be darker and conditions more favourable than ever.

Earthsky.org report that the Geminids may peak around 2 a.m. ET on Dec. 13 and 14, as that's when the shower's radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.

Observers will want to start watching the Geminids by 9 or 10 p.m. ET and a dark sky - away from city lights - is crucial.

For those in areas with uncooperative climates, a live Ustream feed of the Geminid shower will be available on NASA's website both Dec. 13 and 14. NASA's light-activated camera is mounted at their Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala and will turn on at dusk on both evenings.

Share your photos!

If you snap a shot of the Geminids, send it to us for a chance to have your work featured by CBC News.



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