Mid-December date with celestial event

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Kolkata, Dec 12 (UNI) Keep gazing the sky tomorrow and the day after at night and see it aglow with the radiance of meteor showers, an annual celestial event.

''The event, which occurs this time, will be at its peak on December 13-14. About 60-160 meteors will hurtle down per hour from the sky,'' Birla Planetarium Curator S Dutta today said.

Unlike last year, the Geminids would be falling against a dark, moonless night, he said.

''This year the meteors will be joined by an exceptionally bright Mars visible in Gemini. The planet will be gleaming yellow-orange as it nears a close approach to Earth,'' Mr Dutta said.

Called as Geminid meteor shower, this event occurs every year during this time. ''But this year it will be the sky's best activities,'' he added.

The name Geminid had been derived from the constellation Gemini as they appear to stream from near the constellation's brightest star Castor.

Most astronomers now believe the Geminids' source is an extinct comet that collected a thick outer layer of interplanetary dust. A comet in an asteroid's clothes.

The last time the sky was this dark during the shower was in 1996, when observers saw up to 110 meteors an hour.

Experts say the rate will be at least that high this year, with peak viewing on December 13 and 14.


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