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Home / Tips and Tricks / How to view the 2020 Geminid meteor shower, one of the best of the year

How to view the 2020 Geminid meteor shower, one of the best of the year



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A Geminid meteor captured in its final flaming moments.

NASA

The Perseids get a lot of attention for being active during warm summer evenings in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Geminid meteor shower is actually the strongest most years. Good news for skywatchers: the Geminids are now officially active.

The major peak of the storm will last another week, but the early phase of the Geminids combines with the peaks of two other small meteor showers on Monday and could produce more than a dozen visible meteors per hour on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

But the big show comes on Sunday December 13th and Monday December 14th, when under ideal conditions it is possible to see up to 150 meteors per hour.

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.

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.

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 in the 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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