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For best view of weekend meteor shower, stay up late, get up early

Skywatchers who brave the cold this weekend will be rewarded with the best views of the Geminid meteor shower. The annual Geminids, named for the stellar constellation Gemini, will peak between 9 p.m. Friday and first light Saturday.

Meteors are expected at a rate of 100 to 120 an hour. Some space experts say the best time to watch may be after the moon sets just before dawn on Saturday morning.

"We'll have interference from moonlight in the sky this year," Robert Naeye, editor in chief of Sky & Telescope magazine said in a statement, "but the brighter meteors will shine through anyway. You'll probably see quite a few."

To see the fireballs, find a place with a clear view of the sky and as little light as possible. You won't need a telescope but you may want to take a chaise longue to stretch out on and watch the show.

The Geminid meteors appear yellowish in the sky and are considered the "richest reliable shower of the year," according to Sky & Telescope. They arrive in mid-December when the Earth passes through debris not from a comet (like other meteor showers) but from a small, superheated asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

Arizonans received a fireball preview Tuesday night when a meteor exploded over the state, rattling windows and sending residents scrambling to figure out the source of the intense light in the sky. Space.com reports that it was not part of the Geminids.

Mary.Forgione@latimes.com
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