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Geminid Meteor Shower 2011: How To See 'Shooting Stars' This December

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The Geminid meteor shower peaks Tuesday night, so grab your jacket, hat and scarf, and get ready to look up.

Like the Perseid, Draconid and Leonid meteor showers earlier this year, the light of a nearly-full moon threatens to wash out some of the Geminids.

But according to Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, some lucky stargazers might still get a good view of the meteorites, what people sometimes call "shooting stars."

"Observers with clear skies could see as many as 40 Geminids per hour," Cooke said in a statement from NASA. "Our all-sky network of meteor cameras has captured several early Geminid fireballs. They were so bright, we could see them despite the moonlight."

NASA says that the best time to view meteors will be overnight, after 10 p.m. local time and before sunrise on Wednesday.

Astronomy magazine's Richard Talcott offers some tips to avoid the moon's bright light from obscuring your view:

One way to compensate for the Moon's presence is to find a spot where a building or tree blocks the Moon from view. This will make the sky appear darker. Then, focus your attention in the direction opposite where the Moon lies.

(Read Talcott's full post on Astronomy magazine's website for more about the Geminids.)

And of course, when trying to view any celestial event, it's always best to get away from cities and towns where the light could obstruct your view.

Most meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris left by comets. The Geminid meteor shower, however, come from the debris of 3200 Phaethon, a near-Earth asteroid.

But according to NASA, asteroids don't usually have debris trails like comets.

While there are clues about the source of the Phaethon debris, scientists sill are not certain where it comes from.

"We just don't know," Cooke said. "Every new thing we learn about the Geminids seems to deepen the mystery."

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Geminid Meteor Shower got its name from the fact that the meteors appear to be emanating from one of the stars in the constellation Gemini.

December has been a great month for sky watchers. Over the weekend, the last total lunar eclipse until 2014 occurred. As a result, the moon appeared to glow red and orange, mesmerizing people all over the world. (Click here for photos of the lunar eclipse.)

Check out the photos below for images from past meteor showers:

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