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Geminid meteor

What: an annual celestial light show of "shooting stars" or meteors.

When: This year, viewing begins late night on December 13 continuing into the early morning hours of December 14, with peak viewing beginning after midnight on the US East Coast.

Where: look east in the early evening hours, then straight up at the constellation Gemini high overhead beginning about 2AM.

What to bring: lawn chair, hot cocoa, camera and tripod.

The Geminid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that is extremely regular in its timing and can potentially be visible for days in the late-autumn sky, depending on weather and location.

The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate from. In late autumn or early winter, that means viewing the spectacular light show with eyes pointed straight up in the night sky.

Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its outer covering after too many close encounters with the sun.

Each December, Earth passes through the debris cloud left by the comet as sand-sized specks enter the earth's atmosphere producing a spectacular show of "shooting stars."

When and where to look for Geminids 2018

Beginning in early December, the Geminid meteor shower grows in intensity to finally reach its zenith on the night of December 13 and continue overnight into the early morning hours. The predicted peak is just after midnight on December 14.

Luckily, a first quarter moon on the evening of December 13 won't interfere too much with viewing the Geminids in 2018, unlike some years when a full moon tries to upstage the show.

Look east in the early evening, (or straight up later in the wee morning hours at the peak around 2AM ) to watch for the brightest falling stars. The meteors speed into the atmosphere at 140 kilometers an hour. As they push through the air they are very hot and very bright, so even with competition from moonlight the Geminids can be pretty spectacular.

Geminids meteor shower
A light show in time for the holidays : Geminids peak December 13 - 14.

In North America, Canada and US East Coast residents will have the best viewing that night into the early hours on the 14th, but as Geminids are a "long tail" event, expect additional views growing less spectacular several days or nights before and after the peak.

How to view Geminids

The best place to observe the Geminid meteor shower (or any meteor shower for that matter), is somewhere dark, away from light pollution, and with the moon out of the field of vision. The less light visible, the more brilliant the meteor shower will be.

Telescope or camera?

While mostly viewable to the naked eye, the annual Geminid meteor show may be in any year partially obstructed by the moon, clouds or night mist, so amateur astronomers might want to carry along a pair of binoculars or a camera with a telescopic lens. Even on clear nights, some kind of viewing aid may come in handy for catching sight of even the faintest of falling stars, aptly named "telescopic" meteors. On super clear nights, experts advise to forget the telescope and simply ... look up!

For photographing the annual event, a digital camera mounted on a tripod helps to steady the images that swiftly move across the sky. A quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of Geminid "prime-time" will also guarantee that you'll catch something. Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.

More about Geminid meteor showers around the Web:

EarthSky's Meteor Shower Guide - Find historical details and current best-viewing guide date and times for this year's major celestial events.

Geminids - Wikipedia - Read up on extensive background facts and historical information on Geminid sightings through the centuries, with photos and illustrations, related references and resources.

About Meteors - Check out a brief but informative overview of common terms that help identify various sizes and types of meteors.


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