The Geminid meteor shower is set to peak this Sunday, December 13th, bringing some extra bling to the holiday season. Add in an early-setting crescent moon and the unseasonally, awesomely warm weather predicted this weekend, and it’s the perfect setting for skywatching— as long as it doesn’t cloud over. Fingers crossed, everybody.
About 120 meteors per hour— that’s two shooting stars a minute!— are being predicted; NASA calls the Geminids one of the most reliable meteor showers. Your best chance of seeing one is around 9pm, but the spectacle should be ongoing all night. Along the same lines, if you can’t get outside Sunday night try anytime from the evening of December 12 to the morning of December 15.
You’ll want to look in the direction of the constellation Gemini, since that’s this shower’s point of origin (radiant). If, like me, you couldn’t locate Gemini for a million dollars, know that it’s close to Orion. Orion has three stars lined up as his “belt” and should be easy enough to locate, or have someone else point out to you.
The reliability and relatively early peak hour make the Geminid meteor shower a good one to share with little ones! I love watching the night sky with my kids; these times are some of the best conversations I have with them. There’s just something about laying around, in the dark, seeing amazing things, that makes them open up.
To increase your odds of seeing a falling star (or, rather, asteroid debris) you’ll want get away from city lights and other light pollution as much as possible. You’ll also want to lay down a field without trees or structures to obstruct your view. Leave the telescope or binoculars at home, they won’t be necessary and would limit your field of vision anyway.