It’s all about timing and Mother Nature is cooperating. The most reliable and prolific meteor shower of the year peaks tonight and with very little moonlight to interfere, it could be quite a show!
So where do these shooting stars come from? The Geminid meteors are created by tiny pieces of rocky debris, about the size of large grains of sand that were shed from a small asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. Over the centuries, these bits have spread all along the asteroid’s orbit to form a moving “river of rubble” hundreds of millions of kilometres in length. Earth’s annual orbit around the sun carries us through this stream of particles every mid-December.
This year, the Geminids began Dec. 4 and are expected to peak the evening of Dec. 13 into the predawn of Dec. 14.
The Geminids will radiate from the constellation Gemini; that means you should look to the southwest in the early morning hours of Dec. 14. Having said that, Geminids can appear anywhere in the sky; small ones appear as tiny, quick streaks. Occasionally, larger, brighter ones may sail across the heavens for several seconds and leave a brief train of glowing smoke.
Under a clear, dark sky, you could see at least one Geminid every minute from around 10 p.m. until dawn Friday morning. If you’re not interested in staying up late, have a look earlier in the evening. The counts will be lower, but a few should also flash into view.
You don’t have to worry about expensive equipment either; all you need to watch the meteors are your eyes. Find a dark spot with an open view of the sky and as few nearby lights as possible and enjoy.
Don’t forget to make a wish!