How to Spot This Year's Spectacular Geminids Meteor Shower

Michele Stevens
December 13, 2018

The Geminid meteor shower will peak on Thursday night and you don't need any special equipment to view the magical show provided you're able to find a clear and dark sky. The Google Doodle will track the Geminids as they pass through the sky. Though they'll appear in fewer numbers, the week surrounding the Geminids' peak may still provide a good show.

Meteor showers are indubitably one of the galaxy's best-kept secrets. The meteors burn off different colors depending on what chemicals they're composed of, but you can expect to see yellow, red, blue-green and violet in the skies.

Geminid has been increasing in intensity since first observed back in 1862, and now is considered the most intense of the annual meteor showers, particularly for the Northern Hemisphere.

Phaethon orbits the sun closer than any other asteroid and takes 1.4 years to orbit it.

The 46P/Wirtnanen comet, which is about 3/4 of a mile long, should move across the sky the morning of December 16, according to NASA, and binoculars or a telescope will help you get a better view.

But if you won't be up in those early hours, you can also start watching a couple hours after sunset; the moon will set at about 10:30 p.m. local time on December 13, and about 11 p.m. local time on December 14, so just look after that on either of those nights. The Geminids, however are the result of debris left behind by 3200 Phaethon, an Earth-crossing asteroid. A meteor flash is seen here with an aurora borealis shimmer in Norway.

So, every year in the month of December, these Geminids are active.

"Due to its close approach to the sun, Phaethon is named after the character of Greek myth who drove the sun-god Helios' chariot", NASA said.

"The Geminids will appear to the north-east, just above the horizon in the constellation of Gemini", she said.

Up to 50 times more shooting stars than a normal night are expected in what David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland, has previously called a "wonderful natural celestial fireworks display". The meteors travel at about 35 km/s so they're easier to spot. Watch meteors showers observed in the skies over Daytona Beach, Florida, during the 2018 Geminid shower by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

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