The Most Spectacular Meteor Shower of the Year Is Upon Us

Meteor falling via NASA

Meteor falling via NASA

It's time to make a Christmas wish on some shooting stars.

What if it's cloudy on the big night of the Geminids, Dec. 13-14?

Reports suggest the shower is intensifying every year, with as many as 120-160 meteors per hour lighting up the skies under optimal conditions.

Why is this year so favorable for the Geminids?

You're more likely to see the shower if you live on the east coast of the U.S., given the moon is due to rise about 3.30am, with just a sliver (10% or so) illuminated, meaning its brilliance won't outshine (quite literally) that of the shower.

The other reason why this year is astronomically favorable for the U.S.to see the Geminids is the exact timing of Earth's encounter with the central section of the meteoroid swarm. Always one of the most active showers of the year, the Geminids this month will land on a night with nearly flawless conditions.

You can start watching the skies this evening, but the shower won't peak until late night on Wednesday, Dec. 13 and into the early morning hours of Dec. 14.

The Geminid meteor shower is distinctive insofar as it's not caused by a comet, but rather an asteroid with many properties of a comet. Meteors should be visible across the entire sky, though the best way to catch them is to look south toward the constellation.

The best way to view the meteors is to get somewhere rural with minimal light pollution. But some of them will be bright meteors, maybe a few brighter than any star or planet, or even as bright as the moon. Then participants will head out to sit a spell and watch the sky. By 9 or 10 p.m. the numbers could be up to four dozen or more per hour. If you live in the United Kingdom, with its unending proclivity for leaden skies, you may not be so lucky but don't despair; you may still get a chance to see some ethereal pairings of the crescent moon with the planets Jupiter and Mars instead.

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