The Geminid meteor shower, one of the biggest meteor showers of the year, will peak this weekend, December 13 to 14. We get a lot of questions about the Geminids—so we’ve put together some answers to the ones we’re most commonly asked. Take a look!
What are the Geminids?
The Geminids are pieces of debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. Earth runs into Phaethon’s debris stream every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the direction of the constellation Gemini – hence the name “Geminids.”
Image Credit: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF
When is the best time to view them?
This year, the peak is during the overnight hours of December 13 and into the morning of December 14. Viewing should still be good on the night of December 14 into the early morning hours of the 15th. Weather permitting, the Geminids can be viewed from around midnight to 4 a.m. local time. The best time to see them is around 2 a.m. your local time on December 14, when the Geminid radiant is highest in your night sky. The higher the radiant – the celestial point in the sky from which meteors appear to originate – rises into the sky, the more meteors you are likely to see.
Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Dai
What is the best way to see them?
Find the darkest place you can and give your eyes about 30 minutes to adapt to the dark. Avoid looking at your cell phone, as it will disrupt your night vision. Lie flat on your back and look straight up, taking in as much sky as possible. You will soon start to see the Geminid meteors!
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford
Can you see the Geminids from anywhere in the world?
The Geminids are best observed in the Northern Hemisphere, but no matter where you are in the world (except Antarctica), some Geminids will be visible.
Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake
How many Geminids can I expect to see?
Under dark, clear skies, the Geminids can produce up to 120 meteors per hour – but this year, a bright, nearly full moon will hinder observations of the shower. Still, observers can hope to see up to 30 meteors per hour. Happy viewing!
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky
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