The skies are giving us an early Christmas present as the Geminid meteor shower will soon go on display. The Geminids, which NASA has dubbed the “best and most reliable meteor shower,” are a yearly celestial celebration that you can see from mid-November through December annually.
However, the Geminids won’t fully peak until the middle of December. Despite this, it will be worth the wait as the starry spectacle can produce up to 150 shooting stars in just one hour with proper conditions. Additionally, this year’s Geminids will occur simultaneously with a waning gibbous moon, meaning the moon’s light will make it harder to spot the meteors.
According to experts, observers are likely to see more like 30 to 40 meteors as they shoot high into the atmosphere. Reports indicate that the first sightings of the Geminids date back to 1983 when the 3200 Phaethon asteroid was first discovered by astronomers.
The meteor showers, known for their speed and shine, also feature a yellow hue. As for their speed, NASA reports that they can travel nearly 80,000 miles per hour.
So when should you mark your calendars? Experts expect the Geminidsd to peak sometime on the evening of Dec. 14. In addition, one of the best parts about the show is that they will last for the duration of the night. However, that’s just the beginning as the showers will be active until Dec. 17.
How to witness the upcoming Geminid Meteor Shower
Although, it becomes increasingly difficult to spot a shooting star the later it gets. To set yourself up for star-spotting success, make sure you’re outside and far from any light pollution. Although the bright waning gibbous moon will make it hard to find a shooting star, you’re still bound to get a show since the Geminids are famous for their brightness.
While some comets are the real point of origin for many meteor showers, most people think they originate from their “radiant,” or the point in the sky from which the stars appear to shoot. However, the Geminids’ radiant is the constellation Gemini, also known as the “Twins.”
According to astronomers, it’s best to look towards Gemini to find a shooting star. However, according to NASA’s Bill Cooke, you can also lie on the ground, and peer into the dark sky, and you might have a better chance at seeing this rare nighttime treat. Cooke adds, “meteors close to the radiant have very short trails and are easily missed, so observers should avoid looking at that constellation.”
If you miss the Geminids, you’re not totally out of luck. You will also have the chance to witness the Ursid on Dec. 21 of this year. In addition, the showers line up with another cosmic display: the winter solstice, also the shortest day of the year.