The Geminid Meteor Shower is active every December but will peak on the evenings of December 13 and 14 this year, as per the several reports. The Geminid meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through a trail of dusty gravel and debris left behind by the famous ‘rock comet’ named 3200 Phaethon. A rock comet is a rocky asteroid that behaves like a comet, outgassing materials like rock grains, instead of a typical comet that outgasses ice. During the peak, there can be up to 120 multicolored meteors every hour, so there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see one!
According to NASA, “The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth’s atmosphere in a flurry of ‘shooting stars.’”
The Geminids are best viewed during the night and predawn hours and are visible across the globe due to a nearly 24-hour broad maximum. This shower is considered one of the best opportunities for young viewers since this shower starts around 9 or 10 p.m.
To view the Geminids, find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared for winter temperatures with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing south and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.
Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from asteroids. When these objects come around the sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them. Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.
This Friday, look up to the sky to catch one of the most prolific and reliable meteor showers of the year!