When and Where to See Geminid Meteor Showers

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Geminid meteor shower 2015 over a 15 minute period north of Limon Colorado. Credit: Shannon Dizmang/Flickr

The month of December is the time when you get to see the annual Geminid meteor shower. Unlike the usual meteor showers, the Geminids do not originate from a comet. These showers are caused by asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Usually seen every December, the Geminids are expected to peak on the night of December 13/14.

What is a Geminid Meteor Shower:

Geminid Meteor Showers are showers that occurs when trails of dust or meteoroids of 3200 Phaethon (considered as an asteroid or extinct comet) burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere. All meteor showers have similar orbits and appear to come from the same point of origin, called the radiant. The Geminid showers appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini, hence the name Geminids.

When to See the Geminid Meteor Showers:

 

The shower peaks on the night of December 13/14, i.e. from Sunday night of December 13 to the early dawn of Monday, December 14. In fact, you will also be able to see a few showers on the preceding nights, December 11/12 and 12/13 as well.

You can start seeing Geminids around 7:30 – 8:00 p.m. local time with the best time to watch these showers is around 2:00 a.m., the time when the shower’s apparent radiant point, the bright star Castor in the head of the constellation Gemini (The Twins) is highest in the sky.

As the showers near their peak, you will be able to see 50 or more meteors per hour. The new moon falls on December 14, which means you can observe the shower on a nearly moon-free sky. At its peak, you can expect to see as many as 60 meteors per hour.

When: December 4 to 17, 2020 with the best views on early dawn of Monday, December 14.

How & Where to see Geminid Meteor Shower:

Although the radiant point of the Geminids seems to coincides with the Gemini constellation, you don’t need to find Gemini to see the showers. However, if you want to find Gemini, turn in the opposite direction of the north star, Polaris. There you can find Orion the Hunter, with the red star Betelgeuse on the right shoulder. To the left of Betelgeuse, you can find stars Pollux and Castor at the head of the constellation Gemini.

It is better to avoid watching the radiant because the meteors close to it are easily missed because they will have short trails.

The Geminid showers can appear in all parts of the sky. So lie back and enjoy the show. Remember to dress for the weather.

WHERE TO GO TO SEE THE SHOWER:

Meteor showers can be observed with your naked eyes. You won’t need binoculars or a telescope. If possible, try to move away from city lights and give your eyes some time (at least 20 minutes) to adjust to the darkness.

Required Conditions: Clear Sky away from city lights — Check clear sky (cloud) conditions in your area – here.

–The best way to see it is to get away from city lights, preferably to Dark Sky Preserves. If not, to open sky areas (so that you have a 360 deg view of the sky) away from city lights like provincial/regional parks (where you can typically see a million stars on a clear starry night ) around midnight and lookup. If you live in the countryside there is a good possibility that you can see the meteor shower from your yard.

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Screengrab: DarkSiteFinder Light Pollution Map.

To find reasonably dark areas near your location, check the darkskyfinder map. Search for a park (or a safe place with no streetlights and away from roads/traffic) within the areas coloured dark (mustard) yellow, green, blue, grey or black (transparent). (Before travelling, please check cloud cover.)

Take a blanket or a lawn chair so that you can sit comfortably to watch the shower.

Once you are at the location:

— Make sure you switch off the phone and your eyes need ~ 30 minutes to get adjusted to the dark. If you are carrying a flashlight, cover it with red cellophane wrap or some kind of red filter, so that it doesn’t interfere with viewing.

— Watch the night sky for at least 15 to 20 minutes for a chance to spot meteors.

Online Stream:

You can watch the live stream of the shower on the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. EDT.

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