Lots of reports of meteors this week, and most are probably part of the Geminid meteor shower, scheduled to peak late night December 13 to dawn December 14 as seen from around the globe. But NASA is saying there’s a second possible meteor shower that could significantly boost the number of meteors you’ll see. The source of the possible new shower is Comet 46P/Wirtanen.

Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office says debris left in Wirtanen’s orbit might produce as many as 30 meteors per hour, added to the 100 meteors per hour from the Geminids. That would be an awesome meteor show!

By the way, Comet Wirtanen was discovered in 1948, just after World War II, and takes 5.4 years to orbit the sun. It reaches its closest point to the sun just outside Earth’s orbit. Although this comet has skirted Earth’s orbit many times, Earth has not run into its debris streams before, but 2012 could be different.

Bottom line: A Russian meteor forecaster Mikhail Maslov has used a computer to learn that Earth might cross streams of debris left behind by Comet Wirtanen four times between December 10 and 14. If so, there’s a new meteor shower in the offing this week, which will coincide with the annual Geminid shower. The new shower might produce as many as 30 meteors per hour. The Geminids might produce 100 meteors per hour. Start watching tonight! Best on the night of December 13-14 as seen from around the world.

Read more about Comet Wirtanen from NASA’s Near Earth Object Program.

(earthsky.org)