One of astronomy’s most anticipated events this year, the Geminid meteor shower, will be visible tonight, December 13th.
Geminid Meteor Shower
If you have a clear view of the sky, make sure to step outside around 7 p.m. local time to witness one of the top space-related events of the year. If you can’t make it outside or your visibility is poor, however, you can still enjoy the shower by visiting a Geminids webcast from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, located in Alabama and starting at around 5:40 p.m EST.
This year, the Geminids will be bright and have almost no interference from moonlight, ensuring that we all get a wonderful show. At the peak of the shower, there will be as many as one or two meteors per minute (around 10 p.m.) This event is named the Geminid meteor show due to the meteor’s apparent radiation outwards from the constellation Gemini — located between Taurus and Cancer.
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However, Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky and Telescope, has stated that the best place to look will depend on your location. “Don’t fixate on looking toward Gemini…Geminids can appear anywhere in the sky, so the best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, which is probably straight up.”
All you’ll need to enjoy the Geminid meteor shower is your eyes, but if you have a small telescope you’ll get a much better view of another special event. The asteroid 3200 Phaethon is also making its closest approach to earth and has a high-visibility. Take a look at this sky chart on Space.com in order to figure out how best to see this exciting close approach.
The Geminid meteor shower is closely related to the 3200 Phaethon orbit. Every 1.4 years, the asteroid completes its journey around the sun, and we experience the Geminid shower each year when our planet passes through the asteroid’s trail of dust. We’ve seen the Geminids every year since 1862, but Phaethon, the asteroid behind the event, wasn’t discovered until 1983. With a diameter that’s three miles wide, it shouldn’t be too difficult to catch a glimpse if you know where to look.
There are multiple showers each year, but the Geminid meteor shower is considered one of the most reliable, occurring every December as our planet passes through space debris. In addition to being reliable, the meteors are extremely bright and are generally easy to spot — even if you live in an area with heavy light pollution. While the light of the moon can occasionally obscure the view, that should be close to a non-issue. This year, the moon is a waning crescent and shouldn’t rise until after the peak of the shower.
In order to give yourself the best chance of seeing the full shower, find an area far away from artificial lights and give your eyes some time to adjust to the darkness. Just gaze up into the stars and get ready to watch the yearly visit from the Geminid meteor shower — and make sure to bring your sweater!