In fact, this is one of the few major meteor showers that don’t require you to wake up well before sunrise to catch the best part. According to the American Meteor Society, the Geminids provide “good activity before midnight, as the constellation Gemini is well placed from 10 pm.”
This simply means that the area of the sky the meteors appear to be coming from is high in the sky early at night. It’s highest around 2 a.m. local time, but if you leave before midnight, you still have a good chance of seeing a lot. Plus, those hours are the best time to see bright, slow-moving “earth grazers” along the horizon.
Sky & Telescope magazine predicts that peak activity for the Geminids in 2020 should come around 5:00 p.m. PT (8:00 p.m. ET), making it ideal for many in America to catch them before the kids go to bed.
“It’s worth braving the cold at the height of this downpour,” said Diana Hannikainen, acting editor at Sky & Telescope. “The Geminids provide the best display of ‘shooting stars’ all year round.”
In short, there isn’t really a bad time looking for Geminids. Also not need to stare at Gemini to spot Geminids. The meteors can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, but will usually move away from Gemini.
Perseid meteor shower photos from 2020 shine brightly in a dark year
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Fortunately, the moon will do its part to provide for those conditions by making those nights scarce itself. It will only be the smallest bit of the moon if it is visible at all, with the new moon falling on December 14th. The rest depends on the local weather and your ability to find a wide, clear view of the night sky, away from the light pollution.
If you can do it, all you have to do is dress appropriately, sit back, let your eyes adjust, relax, and watch. The Geminids can range from faint, fleeting “shooting stars” to bright, intensely colored streaks and maybe even a fireball here and there. You’re more likely to spot meteors in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Geminids are also visible south of the equator, just later at night and in fewer numbers.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome plans to organize an online watch party.
We get meteor showers when Earth drifts through clouds of debris, usually left behind by visiting comets. In the case of the Geminids, the debris comes from the so-called “rock comet”, thought to be a potentially extinct comet wandering the inner solar system.
I hope to put together a Geminid glamor gallery this year. If you have astrophotography and you manage to take great meteor photos, share them with me on Twitter or Instagram @EricCMack.