The Geminids meteor shower has been visible since December 4, but last night, the shower started showcasing peak visibility, with up to 120 meteor showers lighting up the night sky every hour. Unlike the letdowns this year that were the Perseids, the Lenoids, and Monday Night Football, the Geminids are thought to be intensifying every year, creating a better nighttime show for us Earth dwellers with every passing fall. Tonight should be good watching.
The shower gets its name from the constellation Gemini, which it appears to radiate from. The meteors themselves derive from old debris from the object 3200 Phaethon, a “rock comet” that’s basically lost all its ice because of the proximity of its path to the sun. The remnants of the ice creates a long trail of debris that moves rather slowly and burns brightly as the Earth passes by every December.
For this reason, the Geminids are one of the easiest meteor showers for ordinary people to watch. You don’t have to find yourself looking in one particular direction, or use any telescopes or fancy optical instruments. You just need to find a place relatively free of light pollution and obstructing clouds, and lean back. Just remember to bundle up.
If you missed the shower peaking last night, don’t fret — you’ll still find a good show tonight and tomorrow night if you keep on the lookout. And in the meantime, here’s some pictures of the Geminids professional and amateur astronomers alike have gathered over the last few years, for your viewing pleasure.