Forget the often-disappointing Perseids meteor shower – Geminids is not only better, it’s predicted to be especially cool this weekend. The Geminids shower has been strengthening in recent years and already surpasses every meteor shower of the year. This year, we’re holding out hope that the show is even better than last year’s brilliant display.
The space big-wigs are predicting 120 meteors per hour (visible from a dark sky) but more realistically, we can expect to see 60-80 per hour – which is still a lot! Also, unlike most meteor showers which require we wake up early or stay up all night, Geminids produces a good show before midnight.
Geminids meteors shoot across the sky at about 22 miles per second. Colors can vary from red, blue, white to yellow and green. Although most meteor showers are caused by pieces of debris loosening from an icy comet as it nears the Sun, the Geminids are not caused by Earth crossing a comet’s path but rather – the path of an asteroid. The 3200 Phaethon asteroid gets in Earth’s way every year in mid-December and spews a stream of dust caused by the heating of the Sun and providing us with the year’s most spectacular meteor display.
On Saturday night, around 9:00 PM, start watching for the meteors to stream to the east. If you start watching around 9:00 PM, you’ll have a good three hours or so before the quarter Moon rises around midnight. And you don’t really have to pick a direction to watch the shower, just lay in a lawn chair and look up!