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Watch Geminid Meteor Shower Thursday, Friday Nights

Where and when to look for the last major meteor shower of 2012 in Oakton.

The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, peaks overnight this Thursday and Friday, and you may be able to see a great show on either side of those dates.

Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its its outer covering of ice after too many close encounters with the sun. NASA reports the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sightings occurring in the 1830s at rates of about 20 per hour.

Since then the rates have increased, regularly putting out between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.

Earthsky.org reports Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. Thursday and Friday, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.

"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports. "Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Dec. 14."

Tips for watching, from Earthsky.org:

Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky. 

Know your dates and times. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday.

What to bring. You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.

Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.

Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time -- and hope.

Where to Watch in Oakton

A good open space is the parking lot at Oakton High School -- and at least on Thursday, fewer Metro lights after midnight will make for a clearer sky.

Do you have suggestions for where to watch in Oakton? Leave them in the comments.

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