The Geminid meteor shower is the first gift the cosmos has given us, the people of Earth.
Considered the “best and most reliable meteor shower” according to NASA, the Geminids are an annual celestial spectacle that can be seen between mid-November and December each year.
The Geminids don’t reach their peak until mid-December, but when they do, the fascinating phenomenon can produce up to 150 shooting stars per hour in perfect conditions. However, this year’s showers will coincide with a waning gibbous moon, meaning the moonlight will make it harder to see meteors; observers are likely to spot more than 30 to 40 meteors as they shoot high in the northern hemisphere. Viewers in the Southern Hemisphere should be able to see around 7-10 meteors.
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You might assume that a natural event like this has been around since the dawn of time, but the Geminids were actually born in 1983 when asteroid 3200 Phaethon was discovered. Every year the Earth passes through its trail of debris, the resulting Geminid Rains.
Known for their speed and brilliance, these showers typically cast a yellow hue. As for their velocity? “Geminids travel 78,000 miles per hour, more than 40 times faster than a speedball,” NASA’s website says.
From when they peak to how to watch them, here’s everything you need to know about the Geminid meteor shower.
When does the Geminid meteor shower peak?
The Geminids are expected to peak between December 13-14 this year. Specifically, showers will begin around 10:00 p.m. ET on the night of December 13 and peak at 7:00 a.m. the following morning.
One of the best parts of the Geminid Shower is that it will last most of the night, so skywatchers will have multiple opportunities to try and spot a shooting star. But the show does not stop there!
The Geminids remain active until December 17, giving starseekers a few more opportunities to catch a glimpse. However, the chances of spotting a shooting star are becoming increasingly rare – so if you saw one last night, be sure to make that wish count!
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How to see the Geminid meteor shower?
Simply, astronomers only have to look up into the night sky to spot a shooting star – but there are a few tips that can help make the location process a little easier. To start, go outside and away from any light pollution.
While it’s best to find a dark spot, there’s not much we Earthlings can do to combat the waning gibbous moon – so instead of spotting 100-150 meteors per hour, viewers from the northern hemisphere are more likely to catch 30-40 instead.
But remember, the Geminids are known for their brightness, so sky watchers are in for a good show regardless!
Where does the Geminid meteor shower appear in the sky?
MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty
Now, let’s get into the details of exactly where to look in the sky.
While comets are the true point of origin for meteor showers, many tend to think that they originate from their “radiant”, or the point in the sky from which the stars seem to shoot. For the Geminids, its radiant is the constellation of Gemini, the “Twins”.
So it makes sense to start by looking to Gemini, but it’s not the only place you should be looking. According to NASA’s Bill Cooke, “Meteors close to the radiant have very short trails and are easily missed, so observers should avoid looking at this constellation.”
(Pro tip: Lie down on the ground, adjust your eyes to the dark sky, and just take advantage of its vastness to improve your chances of spotting a star!)
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What meteor shower comes after the Geminids?
Between the Geminids, the Cold Moon and the lunar occultation of Mars, the celestial scene in December is particularly active — and the natural phenomena don’t stop there!
This month sees two different meteor showers; the next to occur is Ursid on December 21, 2022. Additionally, showers align with another cosmic display: the winter solstice (the shortest day and longest night of the year) !