It’s that time of the year again. One of the best meteor showers of the year will peak tonight. Grab yourself a blanket and get ready for the show.
The annual Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak at around 100 meteors per hour.
Before I dive into the best time to watch the Geminids, here’s some background on the meteor shower.
The annual Geminid meteor shower is caused by the an object called 3200 Phaethon. Depending on who you ask, 3200 Phaethon is either a comet or an asteroid. Why a comet? Its orbit passes closer to the sun than any other named asteroid. But, its physical characteristics place it in the realm of asteroids.
2012 Geminid Meteor Shower from China. Credit: Jeff Dai
Now, let’s dive into when you need to be outside.
Around 10 pm
Go ahead and head outside around 9:30 pm tonight to give your eyes some time to adjust. It can take about a half hour for your eyes to fully adapt to the dark. You’ll want to be away from any city lights. A park, or field will do the trick.
The best time for viewing tonight’s Geminids will be between 10 pm and midnight. After that, the moon starts to spoil the show. A last quarter moon will brighten the skies as it begins to rise later tonight. It won’t ruin the Geminids, but you won’t be able to see as many.
Train Your Eyes to Gemini
Tonight’s meteor shower gets its name from the constellation they appear from. In this case, Gemini. Finding Gemini is easy. Look for Orion (Orion’s belt is the defining feature here) and look above and to the left of it to spot Gemini. Check out this image for help spotting Gemini tonight.