The Planet

Here’s how to watch the amazing meteor shower that starts tonight and ends tomorrow morning.

by Tod Perry

December 13, 2018
Photo by Bryce Bradford/Flickr

Stargazers are in for a treat Thursday night into Friday morning. The Geminid meteor shower will present a beautiful show of green fireballs hurtling through the cosmos, leaving behind beautiful streaks in the night sky.

Diana Hannikainen, observing editor at Sky & Telescope, says the meteor shower is “often the best display of shooting stars all year.”

Astronomers predict the shower will peak around 2 am EST on Friday morning with a hundred shooting stars blazing through the sky per hour.

To make sure you don’t miss the interstellar action, Time and Date has an interactive video that shows where and when you can see the shower from where you live.

If you live in a big city with a lot of light pollution, you’ll want to leave town for the best view. “Go out in the evening, lie back in a reclining lawn chair, and gaze up into the stars,” Hannikainen said. “With the radiant rising in the evening, this is a good shower for younger observers who may have earlier bedtimes. But, as always, it’s good to remember to be patient.”

The meteor shower was first recorded in 1862 and occurs every December. 

Astronomers believe the shower is caused by an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, although they aren’t quite sure of what it’s made. The asteroid has been likened to comets, so it’s labeled a “rock comet.”

3200 Phaethon orbits the sun closer than any other asteroid and upon making its closest approach heats up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it reaches maximum temperature, the asteroid sheds debris. 

The particles expelled from the asteroid at 22 miles-per-second create the spectacular shower.

Share image by Bryce Bradford/Flickr

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Here’s how to watch the amazing meteor shower that starts tonight and ends tomorrow morning.