View of the Geminid meteor shower, as seen in northern hemisphere on December 14, 2013. Asim Patel / Wikimedia Commons/Cropped and Resized (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The best meteor shower of the entire year is just around the corner. And, judging by this year’s predictions, it seems like the Geminids will be putting on quite an amazing star show in 2018. Although the meteors have been active for about a week now and will continue to streak across the sky up until December 17, the greatest number of Geminids is expected on their peak night, which this year falls on December 13-14.
The 2018 Geminid meteor shower officially peaks on Friday morning, at 7:30 a.m. ET. Nevertheless, the best time to catch this meteor shower is on Thursday night and during the few hours before sunrise on Friday morning. This is because dark, clear skies are essential to a good light show and “the most important ingredient in observing meteor showers,” notes NASA. This year, the Geminids will be raining down at rates of as many as 120 meteors per hour on their peak moment. That’s about two shooting stars per minute — depending on optimum viewing conditions.
Fun Facts About The Geminids
The Geminid meteor shower is named after the Gemini constellation (“The Twins”). However, Gemini is not their source of origin, but merely the point in the sky from where they seem to radiate — also known as the radiant. While most meteor showers are produced by comets, the Geminids are born from a different kind of celestial body. The interesting thing about the Geminid meteor shower is that it’s actually created by an asteroid — albeit a very peculiar one, that behaves more like a comet than a space rock.
“Unlike most meteor showers, which originate from comets, the Geminids originate from an asteroid: 3200 Phaethon,” explains NASA.
This strange asteroid — which sports a rare blue color and has been recently described as a “rock comet,” per a previous report from the Inquisitr — circles the sun once every 1.4 years, leaving behind a trail of debris. Another thing you need to know about the Geminids is that they are very bright and very fast. These meteors, which generally don a yellow color, come crashing through the atmosphere at break-neck speeds of 22 miles per second, or 79,000 miles per hour. The light show usually starts early-on during the night, at around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. For this reason, the Geminids are considered a great chance for young sky watchers to experience the majesty of a meteor shower.
When To Catch The 2018 Geminids
NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke advises stargazers to head out after the moon has set, so that “there will be no moonlight to wash out the fainter meteors.”
On December 13, the moon sets at 10.30 p.m. — which means that this is your queue to leave the house, reports Newsweek. At around 2 a.m. on Friday morning, when Gemini is highest in the sky, people watching the meteor shower under dark skies, away from city and suburb lights, should expect to see as many as 100 meteors per hour.
How To Watch The Geminid Meteor Shower
The first thing you need to do is find a dark, secluded area that’s well away from city or street lights. Remember to bundle up and come prepared with blankets or sleeping bags, so you’ll be warm and comfortable as you lie on your back to watch the meteors. Lie down on the ground or on the hood of your car with your feet facing south. Allow your eyes 30 to 45 minutes to adjust to the darkness — avoid staring at your phone or any other bright screen, the night’s entertainment will be featured in the sky. Don’t focus on a fixed area on the sky; instead, try to take in as much of the sky as possible, so you’ll have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the meteors. Also, you don’t need to locate the Gemini constellation in order to enjoy the show. The Geminids will be visible all throughout the sky, all night long.