Sky & Telescope | 2018 Dec 07
If it’s clear the nights of Thursday and Friday, December 13th and 14th, step outside and look up — you may very well see streaks of light across the sky from the annual Geminid meteor shower.
- Geminid meteors can flash into view anywhere in the late-night sky. But if you follow their paths back far enough, they all appear to diverge from a point in the constellation Gemini. The meteors' perspective point of origin is called the shower's radiant. Don't expect to see several meteors at once! This diagram is meant only to show their divergence from the radiant point. Credit: Sky & Telescope / Gregg Dinderman
Although the Perseids, which arrive each August, are better known, the Geminids often put on a better show. “Maybe because it’s cold for so many during this shower’s peak,” says Diana Hannikainen, observing editor at Sky & Telescope. “But the Geminids are often the best display of ‘shooting stars’ all year.”
Sky & Telescope predicts that the Geminids should peak around 7:30 a.m. EST (4:30 a.m. PST) on December 14th. So observers in North America will see the most meteors in the dark hours before dawn that day.
If you're not a "morning person," you can start looking a few hours after sunset on the 13th or 14th. The shower’s radiant — the perspective point in the sky from which all meteors appear to emanate — is near the relatively bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini. For viewers at mid-northern latitudes, the radiant is well above the eastern horizon by around 9 p.m. local time and stands highest around 2 a.m.
The waxing crescent Moon sets around 10:30 p.m. on December 13th and about a half hour later on the 14th. So if you’re looking for meteors before then, make sure you keep the Moon at your back as you scan the skies. If you can, get outside before dawn (or stay up late), so you can watch for meteors without interference from moonlight. ...