- The Geminids are expected to peak on the night of December 13-14.
- Shooting stars will start to streak across the sky as early as 9 or 10 p.m. local time.
- Geminid meteors are bright and fast (79,000 mph), and the shower is famous for producing fireballs.
In addition to the upcoming Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, skywatchers this month will also get to enjoy the Geminid meteor shower, which is considered to be one of the best showers of the year.
The Geminids are expected to peak on the night of Dec.13-14 (Sunday evening until dawn Monday), according to EarthSky.
“You should see a decent spattering of meteors on the preceding nights as well. And you might catch a Geminid meteor anytime this week, as the shower builds to its peak,” EarthSky’s Bruce McLure said.
During its peak, 120 Geminid meteors can be seen per hour under perfect conditions, NASA said. The Geminids are bright and fast meteors and tend to be yellow in color.
Also, according to AccuWeather, the Geminids are a great shower for younger stargazers as they are active all night long. Shooting stars will start to streak across the sky as early as 9 or 10 p.m. local time.
However, the peak of the shower tends to be in the middle of the night, starting around 2 a.m.
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This year will be particularly good for watching the Geminids as it peaks on a moonless night, AccuWeather said, allowing stargazers to see the shower’s full potential in areas away from light pollution.
Geminid meteors are bright and fast (79,000 mph), and the shower is famous for producing fireballs, which are meteors brighter than magnitude -4, the same magnitude as the planet Venus.
The Geminids are named for the constellation Gemini, the point from which the meteors seem to radiate.
Although the meteors will appear to stream away from Gemini, Space.com said, they can appear all across the sky. For best results, look slightly away from Gemini so that you can see meteors with longer “tails” as they streak by; staring directly at Gemini will just show you meteors that don’t travel very far.
This meteor shower is active every December when Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a rocky object named 3200 Phaethon, NASA said. The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth’s atmosphere in a flurry of “shooting stars.”
Phaethon’s nature is debated. It’s either a near-Earth asteroid or an extinct comet, sometimes called a rock comet, according to NASA.
Meteor showers don’t require binoculars or telescopes to view – just your bare eyes and some patience.
The Geminids were first noted as a minor meteor shower back in 1862, NASA reported.
At the time of the Civil War, the shower’s peak rate was about 30 meteors an hour. “Since then, the Geminids have gradually strengthened to become the strongest annual shower,” NASA astronomer Bill Cooke said. “This is due to Jupiter’s gravity nudging the stream closer to Earth.”