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Meteor Shower: Free Sky Show

It's a celestial event and scientists say the annual Geminid Meteor Shower is the best astronomy show of the year, with meteors shooting across the sky in all directions.

NASA's Web site explains that the shower is created as Earth moves through a cloud of dust trailing the asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon.

Scientists say the show features meteors shooting across the sky in all directions and it's visible all over the world.

The meteor shower is expected to peak on Monday, December 13th, and the best time to look is around midnight.

One thing about the Geminids that has puzzled scientists for years is that meteor showers usually come comets, not rocky asteroids like 32-hundred Phaeton. It's still a mystery for NASA why this asteroid produces one of the best meteor showers visible from the planet.

Early activity by the Geminids kept more than a few 911 operators busy in Washington, D.C., over the weekend.

Bright flashes in the sky prompted some in the Washington region to call police, wondering and worrying about what those lights might be.

"We're getting some calls that people are reporting seeing some burning objects in the sky," said Pete Piringer, spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue. "Unless they have an emergency of some sort or feel threatened, we'd prefer that they didn't call 911."

The streaks of light of the Geminids trace back to the Gemini constellation, which is high overhead at midnight and this year is positioned next to Saturn.

"It actually happens every year," said Brian Guyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "This year it's particularly strong."

The show in the sky is expected to last several days and is visible around the world. The meteors are visible as soon as the sun goes down with a bright meteor visible about every 15 minutes.

One thing about the Geminids that has puzzled scientists for years is that meteor showers usually come from comets, which are made of ice, dust and rock. But asteroids like 3200 Phaethon are usually rocky and don't have a meteor trail. It's still a mystery for NASA why this asteroid produces one of the best meteor showers visible from the planet.

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