First-time and long-time meteor showers in forecast
The Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak Thursday night. A 2011 Geminid meteor is shown here.
December 11th, 2012
02:12 PM ET

First-time and long-time meteor showers in forecast

Look to the heavens this week and you may see something no earthling has seen before meteors from the comet Wirtanen.

The comet was discovered in 1948 and orbits the sun every 5.4 years, but 2012 will mark the first time the Earth's orbit will cross the comet's debris field, possibly producing meteors, according to a NASA press release.

"Dust from this comet hitting Earth's atmosphere could produce as many as 30 meteors per hour," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said in the release.

The Wirtanen meteor show could come any time between Tuesday and Friday as Earth will cross the comet's tail four times during that span, the NASA release said.

But just because you spot meteors this week, don't think they're automatically from Wirtanen. That's because the Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak Thursday night.

The Geminids, which come around every December, were first observed shortly before the Civil War. They come when the Earth passes through debris from the extinct comet 3200 Phaethon. NASA says an extinct comet is the rock that remains when a comet loses its ice. This meteor shower is called the Geminids because if you trace the path of the meteors, it looks as if they are coming from the constellation Gemini. And that's how you can distinguish these meteors from those that may be the product of Wirtanen. Wirtanen meteors would come from the constellation Pisces.

Cooke also said the meteors from Wirtanen should be visible early in the evening while Geminids should show up later.

Beginning at 11 ET Thursday night, Cooke and other comet experts at will hold an online chat about the meteor showers. NASA will also provide a Ustream feed of the meteor showers. As many as 120 meteors an hour may be visible, NASA said.

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Filed under: In Space • News
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. aritma cihazi

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    December 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Michael A. Baker

    3 more days till all you dume ass people realise that we are just restarting the mayan calander for the 13 time the world did not blow up the first 12 times so why is this one a big deal

    December 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  4. David Crosby

    I wish I had started my own 503c a year ago so I could have charged $20 for every hominid who actually believes in the 2012 prophesies. As a tax deductible church donor I could have collected a fortune in offerings and bought my own Lear Jet..Or a least a nice bass boat..Bunch of ninnies..And by the way..GO NASA.!.Without you we would be lost in the Middle Ages..With the Roman anti science crowd running the Universe...GO NASA!!!

    December 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  5. Poor Edgar Derby

    What an ignorant post! Everyone knows with economies and things, meteors and science? Come on!

    December 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  6. ken

    This meteor shower is all George Bushes Fault !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  7. David Crosby

    I wish I had started my own 503c a year ago so I could have charged $20 for every hominid who actually believes in the 2012 prophesies as a tax deductible church donor and bought my own Lear Jet..Or a least a nice bass boat..Bunch of ninnies..And by the way..GO NASA.!.Without you we would be lost in the Middle Ages..

    December 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  8. Karmapolice

    so if this is the first time we are going through this type of debris... is it potentially a threat or not?

    December 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • GodlessOpera

      It won't be dangerous at all. These are tiny pieces of a comet that isn't even that big itself - the whole comet could hit Earth (it's not on a collision trajectory, just making a comparison) and, while it would make headline news for a while, wouldn't be that big of a deal.

      December 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  9. Terry Smith

    There is a nice free program out called "Stellarium". It will show everything you want to know about the night sky. Enjoy the meteor shower.

    December 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  10. palintwit

    Sarah Palin wears a bathing cap during a meteor shower so she doesn't get her hair wet.

    December 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • bleh64

      Yes, much like Odumba and Biten do their tinfoil hats and sip kool-aid because they think the mother ship is coming for them.

      December 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
      • palintwit

        Get back in your trailer bag-boy. Nascar's on and you don't want to miss that now do you.

        December 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
      • Hoot Gibson

        NEWSFLASH
        The election is OVER. Get a life & move on.

        December 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  11. Someone

    You can find Gemini or Pisces with a good star chart. Nthey won't burn out your night vision like a phone app and are much more accurate. A good one is The Night Sky by The Chandler Company available on Amazon and lots of other places. I have seen this chart at national parks and it is used in lots of universities. I have one and it is very easy to use.

    December 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  12. citizenUSA

    It's the sign written in ancient prophesies: Look to the heavens. When it appears to be shattered and fragments race through the night skies, soon so shall the Earth.

    December 13, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Sinnedangel

      I found absolutely nothing anywhere with that exact quote. However assuming that you may be para-phrasing or changing the wording, meteor showers have happened quite often since those "ancient" prophesies were written. Knowing this I would say that the world either ended a long time ago or that you need to be a little more specific as to what meteor shower is going to cause this. Enjoy the meteor shower and take the end of the world prophesies somewhere else.

      December 13, 2012 at 10:50 am |
      • Howard

        No kidding. Fear-mongering is an old and, unfortunately, honored profession. Those old coots who wrote the Jewish Book of Fairy Tales knew it's a lot easier to control people who are afraid than those who aren't.

        December 13, 2012 at 11:36 am |
      • Jdog

        Has it ever occured to you that he may be joking?

        December 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Fupped Duck

      That reminds me of a song...Straight otta Compton.

      December 13, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • Jello Biafra

        No, no, it's Dead Kennedys, "Well Paid Scientist": "The dark shattered underbelly of the American dream. Avoid it like the plague. It stares at you from your bathroom mirror ."

        December 13, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Steve from NH

      only 9 shopping days left until the end of the world

      December 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  13. rocksnstars

    NASA is not your best source for meteor information. This is: http://www.amsmeteors.org/2012/12/meteor-activity-outlook-for-december-8-14-2012/ And how many people can identify Gemini and/or Pisces in the sky?

    December 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Brian

      Could do without the condescending question, but thanks for the link.

      December 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
      • Robert w

        Aaawww, did u get your feelings hurt? Lighten up, most Americans are uneducated boobs.

        December 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
      • Potrzebie

        Robert w, I'm an American with a master's degree in civil engineering. I watch the sky every night it's clear. I can identify the planets, the dippers and Orion's belt. I could give a rat's ass where Gemini or Pisces are. This article gives me no info i can use as to where or when to look for these, therefore, it's pretentious and useless. Kind of like you.

        December 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • tywebb13

      There's this cool site called the Google. If you go there – http:/www.google.com – you type in things you're looking for, like "When and where will Gemini rise in Asburry Park, NJ on 12.13.12?" Then the Google will dispatch at teams of elves and fairies to find you an answer. Usually the elves and fairies are very fast and you have an answer in less than a second or two. It's neat – you should try it.

      December 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
      • jomomma444

        I thought Asburry was near Haight in San Fran...you have me confused....I still havent recovered from Woodstock...Peace my friend...

        December 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • rocco

      well, if you have an iphone very simply....theres an app for that! called skyview, really cool actually. Easy! check it out. Id like to see people stop complaining about articles also. Lets try and stay positive and post as such?

      December 13, 2012 at 10:43 am |
      • Barbara Moore

        I use the Night Sky app

        December 13, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • ryman

      I used to be able to identify comets like you then i took an arrow to the knee

      December 13, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Barbara Moore

      It's not rocket science. Most people can learn the constellations quite easily.

      December 13, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • Well paid scientist

        Two nights ago, after fifty years of trying, I finally gave up on that, and Greek mythology too. I was pointing at the funny arrow constellation next to Jupiter and asking my son "Is that the thing Orion is holding? A bull or a snake or something?" Then last night I saw four meteors come straight out that constellation in 90 seconds. I realized it was game over and went to bed.

        December 13, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • jellybean

      Heard of Google Sky?
      Its an android app that lets you scan constellations around you throughout day and night.

      December 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  14. snowboarder

    i'm very excited about this shower. i will be in deepest, darkest west VA for the weekend and the viewing should be spectacular.

    December 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • RF Burns

      I hope you have good weather.

      December 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • ryman

      Hope you have a clear squeal like a piggie boy

      December 13, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • piranha

      There's quatch in them woods.

      December 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  15. John

    And one of these comet meteors will make it to the earth's surface and be carrying a virulent alien microbe that will either mutate or wipe out all life on earth within days! oh no!!! lol well it could happen....

    December 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • fmazzur

      Zombies!

      December 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Duke

      No it could not happen. Space debris burns up upon re-entry, even the stuff that hits ground (a very tiny percent) will be thoroughly sterilized by the re-entry friction.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
      • nope

        wrong. if the meteor is large enough to survive the entry, and the virus is deep enough inside, itll survive. Besides, the aliens would put the virus in a time release capsule within the debris to ensure its arrival to land.

        dont matter though, you seem the type of "Know-it-all" cnn commentator that spends more time trying to "correct" posters than actually reading the news.

        December 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
      • Jon

        Nope is right. There was an article about aliens (skeleton men from Jupiter, I believe) who were planting viruses in cannon shells and shooting them at Earth. How could you have missed that?

        December 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
      • Kerry

        It is completely untrue that the interior of a meteorite (a meteor that survives re entry to land on the earth) is sterilized by friction. Only the outer layer gets hot....and, in fact, there have been meteorites with frost on the outside!

        December 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • citizenUSA

      @ nope,

      You are WAY to serious...

      December 13, 2012 at 10:23 am |
      • Well paid scientist

        "lamenting out loud" ?

        December 13, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • jomomma444

      will a warhead filled with anti biotics perhaps Keflex or erythromycin possibly eliminate this nasty meteor's virul payload and save our planet because I havent even started my Christmas Shopping yet ! ???

      December 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  16. SkyWatcher

    I'll be watching. Glad to hear the new find happens earlier in the evening.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  17. ngc1300

    I'll be watching the showers the next few nights, and see you all on the 22nd.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Go Ducks

      No you won't, the ancient Mayan Gods will have come back and wiped us out by then. lol

      December 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  18. fomega64

    I guess the journalist figures everyone knows where the constellations are in the sky each night. I don't. Why didn't the reporter present the obvious? When and where to look?

    December 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • sybaris

      Google is your friend

      December 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Rogue351

      Maybe you could look up the position of the constellations on the internet instead of wasting your time trolling on the CNN journalist.

      December 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Rebecka Hodge

      I understand when this is going to happen its between Tuesday and Friday night right. Are we here in OHIO going to be able to view this if anyone could let me know please do so. Thank you

      December 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
      • masterochi

        At ten pm Gemini will be north east, at about 2 am it will be overhead and at about 4 am it will be north west. Gemini is always to the North of Orion. Look for two bright blue-white stars (very white to the naked eye) that are about a fist apart if you point your fist towards them.

        As other have stated, there are several sites that will show you where to look, Astronomy magazine, or Sky and Telescope magazine, both feature a simplified monthly view of the sky. A full star chart would be confusing for an amateur.

        To view meteors, get warm and comfortable away from lights and look up towards the north, and let your eyes relax, try to not focus on any particular object, and your eyes, as they acclimate to the darkness will become more sensitive, Sooner or later a bright streak will be noticed. Meteors radiate from the constellation they are named for, so you will see streaks away from the area of Gemini and they can go in almost any direction.

        Be patient, stay warm and have fun.

        December 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Dan

      Constellations change positions in the sky throughout the night, just like the moon. Depending on where you live and what time it is, Gemini will be in a different position. Try Google Sky, or...just look up.!

      December 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Drapes73

      Look up. At night.

      Glad to help.

      December 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Duke

      Please – this is 2012 – and since you are posting it is clear you have internet access. Don't be so pathetically helpless. google. bing. other search engines. In any case just look up. They will fill the sky, just "radiate" from a constellation. Using just this info you can figure out where they are coming from. It really is that simple.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Vlad

      The position of the constellations is actually not important. The meteors will appear in all parts of the sky, so it does not matter in which direction to look. The direction of the trails will point to Gemini, but that does not help in observation.

      The best direction to look is the direction of the darkest skies, away from the glow of the towns. The meteorites are faint and easily get lost in the light pollution.

      December 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  19. svann

    Good thing its not on the 21st.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • jomomma444

      I have an appointment to get my tires rotated on the 22nd. Now I'm really nervous.Will there be enough air for my tires ?

      December 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  20. palintwit

    It's easy to spot Sarah Palin during a meteor shower. She's the one with the umbrella.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • uratwit

      Someone doesn't realize this is 2012 and not 2008.

      December 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • obama_jam

      and obama grinning trying to take credit for it all..........

      December 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
      • ILOVEDRUNKS

        And republicans waiting to blame him if something happens.

        December 13, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • David

      Good one!

      December 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  21. GR

    I agree with robbo88. Scientisits say they don't think anything will happen when they turn it on max. and collide the particles. I say they don't really know. A lot of "what if's" to it. They have already had the collisions-this time it's a "hold on to yer hats" moment that I don't like the sounds of. I understand it should be a small reaction...we'll see. In any case I think the end will probably be us messing with stuff we shouldn't, not so much a meteor shower.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Dan I

      The LHC has been operating for quite a while now and nothing has happened.

      The Geminid meteor shower occurs EVERY year. This "new" shower is cool but hardly anything to worry about. We're talking particles the size of pebbles or small rocks, not giant asteroids.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • JeramieH

      > be us messing with stuff we shouldn't

      Who decides what mankind should and shouldn't be messing with?

      December 13, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  22. Carole Alana

    I've seen lots of meteor showers – both of the yearly known kinds (perseiddes are great usually!) and the unexpected kinds. Great green fireball one year that lasted for many seconds. The best at about midnite in Colo Spgs, CO – in about 1997, when it lite up the whole bedroom almost like daytime, broke the sound barrier so loudly our neighbors, a HALF MILE AWAY from us called asking "did your house just blow up – sounds like a gas explosion!" Best way to watch is to bundle up in warm clothes, lay out on a flat cot – have you some hot cocoa in a thermos & try to stay awake. Best time to usually watch – 2 am – that's when your position on Earth is hitting the path of comet, as if it was the front of your windshield of a car. We'll be up watching this time, may be a great show!

    December 12, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Stu

      I'm assuming the neighbor called on a cell phone. Then again would you be answering your cell phone if your house blew up?

      December 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Duke

      You are confusing meteors with meteor showers. You can see meteors almost any cloudless dark evening. meteor showers are predictable swarms of meteors of common origin.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  23. SHAREHOLDERS TRUMP YOU COMPLETELY

    EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

    “You are sacrificing these aquifers,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. “By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

    As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.

    We found the EPA has not even kept track of exactly how many exemptions it has issued, where they are, or whom they might affect.

    What records the agency was able to supply under the Freedom of Information Act show that exemptions are often issued in apparent conflict with the EPA’s mandate to protect waters that may be used for drinking.

    Though hundreds of exemptions are for lower-quality water of questionable use, many allow grantees to contaminate water so pure it would barely need filtration, or that is treatable using modern technology.

    The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Rick

      What in the world are you talking about? This is a blog about meteors!

      December 12, 2012 at 11:52 am |
      • montyross

        people that read this type of article would be more apt to understand his rant than say someone reading an article about 12-12-12 concert so he posts it here

        December 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • MPA

      Is there a web site for more information on the EPA and the aquifers?

      December 12, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • BB Slapnut

      ???????????????

      December 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Al Gore

      I invented aquifiers. Tell me more about Bigfoot contaminating forests.

      December 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Duke

      Where is the "report stupidity" button ???

      December 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
      • mizh

        :)

        December 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  24. mjcharron

    As of 12-11-12, I have seen more meteors in one night than I ever have.

    December 12, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  25. JUST WONDRIN

    We hear about every meteor shower, that maybe 1% might care to try to observe, yet the important stuff that really affect our lives, you never hear a mention of ...................

    December 12, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • rosie

      Like?......

      December 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • ILOVEDRUNKS

      That's your problem. Stop reading what you are told to read or what is on the front page of an online news site and do a little research on current events.

      December 13, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  26. Pat

    I never see meteors during these supposed showers. But when there aren't supposed to be showers, I always see some. Thirty per hour isn't that good, and that's under super clear desert sky conditions. Realistically you may see one every ten minutes.

    December 12, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Shane

      I think it's more likely that you just aren't paying attention to the right dates and times.. And 30 meteors an hour is a pretty decent amount. You're probably seeing satellites, which are much easier to find.

      December 12, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Duke

      I regularly watch meteor showers. I often see more than the predicted rate, I have even on a few occasions seen 2 at the same time – cool !!! My guess is you either forget to go outside, or cant figure out when to watch.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
      • calm down

        this is a passive aggressive way of saying, "your a moron and I am superior"

        December 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  27. Fupped Duck

    The Aztecs are right. A meteor will strike earth and God will save us.

    December 12, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • snowboarder

      and i've got a bridge to sell you.

      December 12, 2012 at 8:48 am |
      • Fla native

        Where is it? How much do you want? Can I see Russia from there? The meteor shower?

        December 12, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Guest

      Aztecs =/= Mayans.

      And the Mayans never predicted an apocalypse. That was all the work of modern people in the past few decades. We seem to like predicting apocalypses on the dates when our calendars roll over, as witness the years 1000 and 2000, but the real world doesn't feel any compulsion to go along with that idea. The Mayan Long Count calendar (by one interpretation of the correspondence of dates) is scheduled to roll over. Big deal.

      December 12, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • robbo88

      I find it very interesting though on 12/21/12 (end of Mayan calendar) a massive meteor shower will be happening and the large hadron particle accelerator in Switzerland will be testing high voltage collisions which they say will break records in high voltage clashes. Just saying!

      December 12, 2012 at 9:49 am |
      • Dan I

        This is hardly a "massive" meteor shower. The Geminids occur EVERY year and this "new" shower, while interesting, is hardly some massive shower that's going to dwarf all others. In any case we're talking particles the size of pebbles or small rocks, not massive asteroids here.

        And the LHC has been testing like that for MONTHS now. They may "break" records, but the physics are relatively understood. They are NOT going to create a massive black hole that will destroy the Earth.

        And 12/21/2012 is not the "end" of the Mayan calendar anymore than 12/31/2012 is the "end" of our calender or 12/31/2000 was the "end" of anything but the 20th Century.. In fact we HAVE records of Mayan dates BEYOND this current "cycle." All that's ending is a long cycle which will, like any other calender, then roll over to the next one.

        December 12, 2012 at 10:49 am |
      • pzanga

        Not sure what meteor shower you're referring to. The Geminids are the final meteor shower of the year, on the 13th-14th not the 21st.

        December 12, 2012 at 11:10 am |
      • rschier

        Just saying nonsense.

        December 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
      • BoThome

        I believe the now extinct Mayans will officially be on their 13th rendition of the Mayan Long-Count Calendar when 12/21/12 rolls around, the world didn't end the other 12 times that particular calendar ended and rolled over into a new one, why would it this time?

        December 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
      • Coflyboy

        I think the guy writing the Mayan calendar stopped writing the calendar for one of these reasons:
        1) he ran out of ink.
        2) Coronado rushed in and beheaded him
        3) He was seduced by some hot chick and decided Life is too short.

        So now we face much ado over nothing. See you on the 22nd.

        December 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
      • Kerry

        The meteor shower ends well before the 21st. Anything to fit the silly earth ending theory, eh?

        December 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  28. giannalee

    WOW :0 thats something to see!!!!!

    December 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

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