Meteor Shower Could Bring 75+ Meteors an Hour

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(CNN) — Look to the heavens this week and you may see a show of meteors from two separate meteor showers.

The Wirtanen meteor show could come anytime between Tuesday and Friday as Earth will cross the comet’s tail four times during that span, according to NASA.

The comet Wirtanen 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 shower will be followed by the Geminid meteor shower, which is expected to peak Thursday night.

FOX 4 Meteorologist Mike Thompson says to get away from the lights of the city and look Northeast.

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.

On the night of Dec. 13-14 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. EST, meteor experts from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will be available to answer your questions via a late-night Web chat.

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