What: an annual celestial light show of "falling 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 of ice 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 "falling stars."
When and where to look for Geminids 2016
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.
This year, a neary full moon will make for less than optimum conditions for viewing, unfortunately.
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, that's a blazing 80,000 mph! As they push through the air they are very hot and very bright, so even with competition from moonlight in some years the Geminids usually promise a good show.
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.
While the Geminids have been comparatively a non-event in the last century, they have grown more spectacular in the recent past and this year is predicted to be no exception.
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?
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 ...
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.