“Mother Nature’s best sky show”: Geminid meteor shower peaks Friday night

Weather Blog

Known as one of the best and most dependable meteor showers of the year, the Geminid meteor shower is expected to reach its peak overnight Friday (Dec. 13) into early Saturday (Dec. 14).  Under the right conditions (cloud-free, near new moon), the meteor shower will be able to seen across the world, with best viewing in the Northern Hemisphere, though a nearly full moon won’t make for ideal meteor spotting.

Quick facts:

  • The best time to watch for the meteors is 2 a.m. Simply find a dark, open sky, lie down, maybe on a lawn chair or blanket and look up.
  • Unlike most meteor showers, the Geminid meteor shower is associated with an asteroid, not a comet. The ‘shower’ happens when Earth passes through the asteroid’s debris
  • Geminids are known to have long trails, making them easier to spot
  • Under ideal conditions (no moonlight), viewers could witness up to 60-120 meteors per hour — that’s 1-2 per minute!
  • Observers have characterized the Geminids as “bright & intensely colored green fireballs”
  • The Geminid meteor shower is ~200 years old, first observation recorded by onlookers on a riverboat on the Mississippi River in 1833
  • The viewing of the meteor shower is asymmetrical, gradually increasing before peak (Dec 13th/14th) then dropping off significantly
  • Geminids travel through Earth’s atmosphere at 78,000 mph and burn up far above the surface (+60 miles up)

The name?

The Geminids meteor shower gets it name from the constellation Gemini. During the event, most of the meteors appear to radiate from this constellation.

Image courtesy: American Meteor Society

The problem?

Unfortunately, Friday night’s bright moon is expected to partially impede the viewing of the meteor shower. The moon is expected to be near ~97% and more than 600 times brighter than Venus in the night sky.

What’s worse? The moon has been consistently “outshining” most of the principal meteor showers this year. In 2019, Lyrids (April), Perseids (August), Orionids (October) and Leonids (November) have all battled with a bright moon (between full moon and last/first quarter).

Second chance?

Even with a bright moon Friday night, there’s still an opportunity to view this year’s Geminids. There is an hour of darkness before Saturday’s moonrise (8PM)… so if you can swing it, your best opportunity will be 7-8PM on Saturday, away from city lights. (Be sure to give your eyes 20-30 minutes to adjust!)

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