The Geminids light up the night sky every December, but this year’s show—which peaks Thursday night into Friday morning—will be particularly good for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will be darker outside, thanks to a new moon falling within a few days of the shower’s peak. Secondly, some 100 meteors per hour are expected, more than one per minute.
The Geminid meteor shower is known for producing some of the brightest shooting stars. It 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 Geminid meteor shower?
The Geminid meteor shower will start to peak mid-evening on Thursday, December 13 and last until dawn on Friday, December 14, according to EarthSky.org. The best time to see the Geminids will be around 2 a.m. in your local time zone, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke says.
“The moon will be first quarter, so it will set around midnight; there will be no moonlight to interfere with the Geminids this year,” Cooke told Space.com.
You’ll need to give your eyes around 45 minutes to adjust to the dark; bring blankets and chairs to stay warm and comfortable. This year, you can expect to see 100 meteors per hour at the peak, so if the weather is clear where you are, you’re basically guaranteed to see some shooting stars.
Where can you see the Geminid meteor shower?
You can see the Geminids from anywhere in the world where the skies are clear on the night of December 13, 2018. If you plan on viewing the meteor shower on Thursday night in the United States, you’ll find the clearest skies in the central and western part of the country, according to AccuWeather.
Thursday night will feature hundreds of meteors streaking across the night sky as the Geminid shower reaches its peak: https://t.co/yYInAyRGK7 pic.twitter.com/osuTZer9X3 — AccuWeather (@breakingweather) December 11, 2018
“Residents from southern Minnesota to eastern Montana, southward to the Four Corners region will enjoy generally clear skies,” says AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins.
However, most people on the East Coast will struggle to see the Geminids due to cloud cover and an incoming storm in the Mississippi Valley this year.
For the best views, leave the city behind and seek out a rural place with little to no light pollution. To find a dark sky place, search the International Dark-Sky Association’s website for locations.