For those willing to brave the frosty conditions, tonight just might be one they’ll never forget. The Geminid meteor shower, which appears to emanate from the the constellation Gemini, will be in full effect for the next two nights. The shower has slowly but surely gotten better over the course of the last several years and has always proven to be a reliable meteor shower. For those reasons, astronomers believe that this year’s Geminid meteor shower will be a very good one, perhaps the best one of the year—better even than the well known August Persieds shower.
December 12 and 13 represent the peak of the shower and give us Earthlings the best opportunity to witness its celestial glory. But there’s a catch. You have to be willing to stay up late.
Chicago Astronomer Geza Gyuk tells National Geographic that, “the quarter moon will obscure the first part of the show, but once it sets after midnight [your local time], the conditions should be ideal. If you can’t stay up that late, then after 10 p.m. is okay too, but the later the better.”
While that’s too late for most of my crew, I do hope that I can talk my daughter Alli into staying up with me. I’d like for us to witness the spectacle together. Today was a snow day for us, and the forecast indicates that tomorrow may be as well. If school is called early this evening as it was yesterday, then I plan on making an event out of it. Now if only the snow clouds will break up long enough for us to see it.
If you, too, are interested in watching with your kids, here are some things you should know.
- The Gemini constellation will be in the eastern part of your sky past 9pm local time. The best view of the shower will be in the northeastern portion of the sky.
- Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will get a better view of the shower. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you can still see it, but it will be lower in the sky. The rate of the meteors visible in the shower will be a bit lower than the rate for those watching in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Staying up late may not be your only option. You could also get up very early. The absolute peak will be the early morning hours of December 14 (tomorrow), between 2am and dawn.
For those of us who are covered with a blanket of snow, it might be nice to see a shower that won’t result in dangerous driving conditions for a change!