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Geminid meteor shower, the strongest of the year, starts now: how to watch



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A Geminid meteor captured in its final flaming moments.

NASA

While the Perseids get a lot of attention because they are active during warm summer evenings in the northern hemisphere, it is the Geminid meteor shower that is actually the strongest years, and the Geminids are officially active from Friday, December 4.

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, or AMS, the Geminids provide “good activity before midnight as the Gemini constellation is well placed from 10pm.”

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.

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.

While AMS says the shower will be officially active from Friday, December 4, its peak falls on Sunday, December 13 and Monday, December 14, when it is possible to see up to 150 meteors per hour under ideal conditions.

Fortunately, the moon will do its part to provide for those conditions by making itself scarce on those nights. 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.

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” 3200 Phaethon, 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.




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