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Photograph of the Geminid Meteor Shower. Photo by David Murray.

NASA has reported that tonight the space rock 3200 Phaethon is causing a meteor shower at around 9 PM to 7 AM. Slooh Observatory will be recording a stream of the shower at 6 PM as well if you are unable to watch it outdoors.

This meteor shower happens annually after bits of material from the space rock burn up in earth’s atmosphere, creating shooting star like streaks. The rock is three miles wide, and orbits Earth every 1.4 years. According to Sky and Telescope, a monthly magazine covering astronomy and events in space exploration, the rock passes closer to the sun than any other asteroid. 3200 Phaethon orbits the sun at 22 miles per second, actually quite slow for an asteroid. If you’re planning on watching the shower, head out early, because it takes at least 20 minutes for a human eye to adjust to darkness, and you definitely don’t want to miss this.

If you do miss the meteor shower, you won’t have to wait long for another astrological occurrence. The comet 46P/Wirtanen, which looks like a green blur, will be at its brightest on December 16th. Get out there and discover the universe because it’s right outside your front door!

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The student voice of West Potomac High School
Science Alert!