The largest meteor shower of the year is happening tonight (12/13). Prepare to see fast-moving meteors in a stunning array of colors.
You should be able to see the Geminid meteors without the use of a telescope or binoculars. They’re known for being bright, fast, and multicolored. Different metals contribute to the different colors meteors can be. They could appear to be blue, green, red, or yellow. Geminid meteors are most often known for their green color.
Even NASA thinks that these pretty green streaks in the sky are worth viewing. Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office says, “Rich in green-colored fireballs, the Geminids are the only shower I will brave cold December nights to see.”
At the peak of the shower, more than 100 meteors are produced. It just so happens that we’re in luck – today and tomorrow are expected to be the peak days of the meteor shower.
What Causes the Geminid Meteor Shower?
The Geminids come from a 19,000ft asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. They’re one of the few major showers not produced by a comet.
Every year we pass by 3200 Phaethon and its trail, and debris gets sucked into our atmosphere. This debris flies into our atmosphere at around 80,000 miles per hour, and then vaporizes and turns into the colorful streaks we know as meteor showers.
Where to View the Shower
As always, for best results find somewhere far away from light pollution. Additionally, finding high ground will help provide a clearer view of the sky. It’s important to stay off of your phone so your eyes can adjust. Remember, after looking at a screen your eyes might need 30 minutes to get used to the dark.
Even with those three things checked off your list, you still might have trouble finding the meteor shower. The two biggest visibility culprits for tonight will be clouds and the moon.
Our lovely moon will reach about 80% fullness tonight. And, yes, the moon is beautiful – but we want to see some space rocks! Thankfully the moon should be out of our way around 3 a.m. or so, and then the meteor shower will be easier to see.
If conditions still aren’t right in your area, or if laying out in cold weather doesn’t sound appealing, no worries. We all can’t be like Bill Cooke. For your viewing pleasure, NASA will be live-streaming the meteor shower on their Facebook page.
The Geminids are expected to end around December 17th. Afterward, the Ursid meteors will be active until Christmastime. The Ursids will have far fewer meteors visible. The peak will be right around the winter solstice or December 21st. If you’re lucky you could see up to 10 meteors an hour during the peak.