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How to Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower This December

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One of the year’s best meteor showers is happening soon.

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One of the year’s best meteor showers is happening soon.

The brightest meteor shower of the year peaks on Monday, December 13.

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The Geminids light up the night sky every December. This year’s show peaks the night of Monday, December 13, into the morning of Tuesday, December 14. Unfortunately, the meteors will be harder to see this year, thanks to the moon being 78 percent full and out for most of that night. On a moonless night, you could expect to see 50 meteors or more per hour. Because the Geminid meteor shower is known for producing some of the strongest shooting stars, you may still be able to see a few of the brightest ones this year.

This meteor shower gets its name from how they appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini. However, the shooting stars you see on Earth actually come from the trail of debris the asteroid 3200 Phaethon leaves behind as it orbits the sun. As these meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere while the planet passes through its dust cloud, you’ll be able to see the streaks of light in the sky as they burn up.

When can you see the Geminids?

While the Geminid meteor shower is active between November 19–December 24, 2021, your chances of seeing the most shooting stars at once begins midevening—around 9 or 10 p.m. your local time—on Monday, December 13 through dawn on Tuesday, December 14, according to EarthSky.org. The greatest number of meteors should be visible around 2 a.m. in your local time zone.

Where can you see the Geminid meteor shower?

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You can see the Geminids from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where the skies are clear on the night of December 13, 2021. The Geminids are still visible in the Southern Hemisphere, just at lower rates. If you plan on viewing the meteor shower on the peak night in the United States, you’ll typically find the clearest skies in the southwestern part of the country where cloud cover is much rarer than in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest in December.

If you live in a rural place outside of a city with little to no light pollution, watching a meteor shower is simple—all you need to do is turn off your lights and head out to your backyard. City dwellers looking for a dark sky place can search the International Dark-Sky Association’s website for locations.

Do you need any special gear to watch the Geminids?

The Geminids are bright enough to see without a telescope. But since you’ll need to give your eyes around 45 minutes to adjust to the dark, you’ll want a few blankets and chairs to stay warm and comfortable outside in the December chill.

A wearable sleeping bag will keep things warm on cold nights, while a reclining camp chair can help prevent a sore neck the next day. You’ll want to pick up a headlamp with a red-light setting to help illuminate the path to your stargazing spot without introducing unwanted light to the area, too. Here are some of our favorite gear picks for each of those scenarios:

  • Buy now: Selk’bag Original Recycled Wearable Sleeping Bag, $189, selkbagusa.com; rei.com
  • Buy now: Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair, $220, rei.com
  • Buy now: Petzl Tikka Headlamp, $30, rei.com

And don’t forget a thermos of something warm. Need some international inspiration? Check out some of our favorite hot alcoholic drinks from around the world.

When is the next meteor shower worth watching?

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If you end up missing the Geminids this December, you won’t have to wait long for 2022’s first celestial event to happen. The Quadrantids will peak late at night on Sunday, January 2, and into the early morning hours of Monday, January 3, 2022. It’s predicted that the Quadrantids will produce about 25 meteors per hour. Plus, the new moon falls on the same night, so you’ll have completely dark skies.

This article was originally published on December 7, 2020; it was updated on October 28, 2021, with current information.

>> Next: Best Stargazing Destinations in the World

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