This week promises a celestial spectacle as the Geminids meteor shower, one of the year’s most anticipated cosmic events, reaches its peak. Sky gazers, if blessed with clear skies, might be treated to a mesmerizing display of around 120 shooting stars per hour.
Since late November, the Geminids have been gracing our night skies, building up to their crescendo on Wednesday night into early Thursday. NASA hails them as one of the most reliable meteor showers, and with ideal conditions – clear skies and an escape from the glow of city lights – you could witness over one meteor per minute streaking across the darkness.
Adding to the allure, this year presents minimal moonlight interference, enhancing the vividness of the colorful celestial show. The Geminids are renowned for their brightness and speed, often appearing in hues ranging from yellowish and white to green, red, and even blue.
Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, notes, “Most meteors appear colorless, but the Geminids sport a greenish hue. They’re pretty meteors!”
For optimal viewing, NASA suggests finding a spot away from city lights, lying down or sitting back with your feet facing south. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness for around 30 minutes. The meteors, originating from the constellation Gemini in the northeastern sky, will start gracing the heavens around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. local time. However, the truly spectacular show awaits those venturing out between midnight and 2 a.m.
To fully appreciate this cosmic ballet, Northern Hemisphere observers should brace themselves for chilly winter conditions. Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris left behind by comets or asteroids. In the case of the Geminids, the leftover celestial fragments come from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, a 3.2-mile-wide rock discovered in 1983, orbiting the sun every 524 days.
While the Geminids peak this week, the celestial performance will continue until December 24, offering ample opportunities for stargazers to witness nature’s dazzling light show.