How to watch this month’s Geminids meteor shower

One of the year’s major meteor showers, the Geminids, will be visible in December. This is how you can capture this beautiful sight.

What to Expect from the Geminid Meteor Shower

Over 100 meteors are recorded in this composite image taken during the peak of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower. Jacobs Space Exploration Group/ESSCA

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes patches of debris left by asteroids or comets. Because the Earth completes one orbit in a year, these meteor showers are annual events as the Earth passes through the same patch of debris at the same time each year. The debris burns up in the atmosphere, leaving visible trails of light across the sky. The Geminid Shower is the result of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983.

The shower is best visible from the northern hemisphere, but can also be captured from the southern hemisphere. At the peak, up to 100 to 150 meteors per hour are visible under ideal visibility conditions.

“The Geminids begin around 9 or 10 p.m. CST on December 13, making it a great viewing opportunity for viewers who can’t stay awake later in the night,” advises NASA in a blog post. “Rain will peak around 6am CST on December 14, but the best rates will be seen earlier around 2am local time. You can still see twins just before or after that date, but the last chance is on December 17th — when a dedicated observer could potentially spot one or two that night.”

How to watch the Geminids Meteor Shower

If you have access to a telescope or binoculars you can certainly use them to get a closer look at the meteor shower, but the good news for casual stargazers is that no equipment is required to see the Gemini in action. The two most important factors affecting meteor visibility are weather and nearby light pollution. Therefore, choose a clear night with as few clouds as possible and try to get as far away as possible from bright light sources such as cities and street lighting.

Find a dark spot and make yourself comfortable, as you may linger there for some time. Remember to bring blankets and warm clothes as it can get very cold. The best way to see meteors is to lie on your back and look up and at the sky, giving your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. This can take around 15 to 30 minutes, so avoid looking at bright light sources like your phone during this time.

The meteor shower should be visible across the sky and most of the night, so be patient and keep looking up and you should be able to catch the shower as bright streaks move across the sky.

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