Make a wish – it's shooting stars season

By Kenia Cris

The Geminids Meteor Shower, started on Dec. 9,  peaks on the nights of Dec. 13 and 14 this year. It is considered the most spectacular meteor shower of the year, with nearly 120 meteors per hour, according to the NASA science website.

“Falling stars” or  “shooting stars” are caused by tiny bits of dust and rock called meteoroids falling into the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up. The short-lived trail of light they produce is called a meteor. A folk belief common in many parts of the world is that if a person makes a wish when she sees a falling star, this wish will come true or be fulfilled. In some areas there is the caveat that the wish must be made before the starlight is extinguished.

Some scholars speculate that the belief originated at a time when people thought that the gods occasionally opened the dome of heaven to see what was occurring on Earth, thereby releasing a star. If one made a wish while there was still light and before the doors slammed shut, the gods would hear the wish and see to it that it was fulfilled. In other areas, shooting starts are favorable omens signifying that the viewer will enjoy good luck.

But much more frequently, however, ancient and modern peoples considered meteors to be signs of misfortune, disaster or death. The idea was prevalent worldwide in the nineteenth and early twentieth certuries as shown in Cosmic Debris: Meteorites in History by John G. Burke. In the big screen, When Worlds Collide (1951), Meteor (1979), Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998) are presently the best ‘fear of collision representatives’. NASA actually monitors the risk of potential future Earth impact events over the next 100 years by keeping a catalog of  near Earth objects and observing their behavior in the outer space.

The best time to look at Geminids is probably between midnight (UTC)  and sunrise on Tuesday, Dec. 14, when the Moon is low and the constellation Gemini is high overhead, spitting falling stars across the sky.  Be sure to bundle up, keep warm with your favorite hot drink and enjoy the starry sky.

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