One of the most significant meteor showers of the year, called the Geminids, will be at its peak on the night of Dec. 13 into the morning of Dec. 14. It is called the Geminids because the “radiant,” the point from which the shooting stars emanate, is located within the constellation Gemini. Gemini rises above the eastern horizon around 8 p.m. on Dec. 13 and should be far enough above the horizon by 9 p.m. to easily see any meteors from the Geminid meteor shower. These times and directions are reasonably accurate for any time zone observing standard time in the Northern Hemisphere.
To find Gemini, take a look at the star map we have annotated. We have highlighted three of the more well-known constellations, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper and Orion, which can be used to orient you towards Gemini. One advantage in finding Gemini is that Jupiter will be the brightest object in that region of the sky on Dec. 13. In fact, Jupiter will be found in Gemini, so if you keep your eye on Jupiter, you’ll almost certainly see Geminid meteors.
At its peak, the Geminid meteor shower could produce shooting stars at an impressive rate of over ONE PER MINUTE! It won’t be surprising if you see some very bright fireballs, properly called “bolides,” which is the more precise scientific term for a meteor that explodes in the atmosphere. By around 2 a.m., Gemini will be nearly directly overhead, continuing then towards the western horizon. Because the moon is very bright on Dec. 13, the best time to view may be before sunrise on Saturday, Dec. 14, after the moon has set, from about 4:30 until the light of dawn. However, do not let the moon deter you from going out to see the Geminids, because even with a bright moon, you will still see plenty of Geminid meteors. The Geminid meteor shower is actually already underway and will continue until a couple days past its Dec. 13-14 peak, so if you have clear skies, it is worth checking them out now, rather than just waiting for the peak.
Get out there, and enjoy the show!
You can leave your comments, as well as be part of a community where discussions on any astronomy subject, when you join AccuWeather's Astronomy Facebook Fanpage by clicking here. We are now well over 44,000 likes on Facebook. Also find and follow us at @AccuAstronomy on twitter. Tell your friends about this site and blog and have them weigh in on some exciting issues. We encourage open discussion and will never criticize any idea. However, no negative conversation will be permitted.
The experts on both Facebook and Twitter will keep you up to date on any astronomy-related subject. Please feel free to share your opinions.
And please keep the astronomy pictures coming. They have been simply amazing. Ask questions, share comments, share anything.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
Tonight could be the last night to get a clear view of Mercury in the evening sky for many.
It’s hard to believe that six months have passed since the Great American Eclipse captivated millions of people across the United States.
Check out the moon and the planets before daybreak Saturday. Also, see gorgeous views of the moon over the past week.