The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks Wednesday night “with up to 120 meteors an hour,” AccuWeather reports. Here’s a guide to help you get the best view of the annual light show.
What is the Geminid meteor shower?
The meteor shower, named after the Gemini constellation because the meteors appear to originate from that constellation, occurs every December. In fact, meteors are not produced by constellations—or any star. They are a product of the Earth crossing paths with space debris that then burns up in the atmosphere in what looks like a streak of light in the sky.
While some meteor showers are from comet debris hitting the atmosphere, the Geminid shower is thought to originate from detritus from 3200 Phaethon, which NASA classifies as an asteroid (but whose comet-like tendencies remain a mystery to astronomers). For amateur astronomers with a small telescope, 3200 Phaethon is in close proximity to Earth, and it will be visible for days after the Geminid meteor shower’s peak.
How do I watch the Geminid 2017 meteor shower?
The shower will be most visible the night of Wednesday, Dec. 13 and into the morning of Thursday, Dec. 14. Unlike last year’s Geminids, there will be no supermoon brightening the night sky and making it difficult to see the streaks of light. Instead, the sky will remain moon-free until 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 14, when a waning crescent rises, according to National Geographic.
The Northern Hemisphere will have a better view of the meteor shower than the Southern Hemisphere. However, people who live in the Northeast will have poor visibility, according to AccuWeather. The Geminid meteor shower will be most visible to viewers in the southern and western United States.
Where should I look?
Where you look is not as important as when you look. Begin watching the sky after 9:00 p.m. local time. The shower is best viewed with clear skies during the darkest part of the night—away from light pollution. Viewing in the best conditions could mean seeing up to 120 meteors per hour, while those stargazing in areas clogged with light pollution will only see 20 to 60, National Geographic explains.