2017's best meteor shower to peak Wednesday night as Geminids dazzle onlookers
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
December 13, 2017, 3:00:54 PM EST
One of the best meteor showers of the year will peak on Wednesday night, dazzling onlookers with up to 120 meteors an hour.
From the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13, into the morning of Thursday, Dec. 14, onlookers will see an abundance of meteors streak across the sky, as long as the weather cooperates.
“The Geminids are expected to be the most active meteor shower of 2017 and often are bright and intensely colored,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.
This year will be a particularly good year since the peak of the shower falls just days before the new moon, meaning there will be little natural light pollution. When a meteor shower occurs during a full moon, such as the Geminids did in 2016, the light from the moon washes out many of the dimmer meteors.
The best viewing conditions on Wednesday night will be across the southern and western U.S. where cloud-free conditions are expected to greet onlookers. The exception will be across the Rocky Mountains and interior Northwest where areas of clouds may obscure the shower. Wildfire smoke could pose issues for viewing conditions in parts of California.
Meanwhile, an Alberta Clipper storm will spread clouds and some snow across the Midwest and northern Plains, resulting in poor viewing conditions.
Breaks in clouds should allow stargazers along the coast of the Northeast to glimpse some meteors. However, bundling up in layers will be a must due to frigid conditions.
Arctic air entrenched over the region paired with a biting wind will keep AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures in the single digits for much of the region on Wednesday night.
How to view the shower
As long as the sky is clear, folks should start to see meteors streak across the sky once it becomes dark on Wednesday evening.
“This shower is one of the few meteor showers that produces high levels of activity through the evening hours, in addition to the overnight timeframe,” Samuhel said.
This makes the Geminids a great meteor shower to watch with younger kids as they should be able to see some shooting stars without having to stay awake late into the night.
While the first meteors will appear in the evening, the number of meteors per hour will increase through 2 a.m. as the radiant point, or point where the meteors originate, climbs high in the sky.
Contrary to popular belief, onlookers do not need to focus on the radiant point to see the Geminids as meteors will be visible in all areas of the sky.
“The best way to view the meteors is to lie flat and get as much of the sky in your view as possible,” Samuhel said.
People should also try to find a dark spot away from light pollution to maximize the number of meteors they can see.
Those that are not able to watch the meteor shower on Wednesday night can go outside on Tuesday night or Thursday night to try to spot a few meteors, but there will not be as many as Wednesday night.
The next meteor shower will be the Ursids, which will peak on Dec. 22 and will bring five to 10 meteors an hour.
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