Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks This Week

Pablo Tucker
December 14, 2018

The meteor shower was first spotted from a MS riverboat in 1833 but has been growing stronger and brighter in the almost 200 years since, as Jupiter's gravity keeps pulling the stream of particles closer and closer to Earth.

The attractive Aurora Borealis photobombed by the Geminids shower!

"If the weather is clear, 2018 should be the best year ever to watch the Gemenides - so named because they seem to originate from the constellation Gemini", Google said. That's Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which is expected to be the brightest comet of the year. This point will be at its highest at 2 a.m. As the night gets darker, and each shooting star starts to fall, one can observe more over a period of time.

Here is everything you need to know about the meteor shower and how you can see it for yourself tonight.

Double-check your local forecast to make sure clouds won't obstruct your view.

If you've been wanting to see a spectacle of shooting stars, you may want to go outside tonight. Geminids are often very bright.

3200 Phaethon has a unique orbit that moves past the orbit of Mars, but also passes close to the sun, said Terry Jay Jones, professor emeritus of physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. They travel at a rate of 22 miles per second. The Geminids are also slower and denser than numerous other meteor showers, meaning perhaps a longer streak across the sky.

The orbit of Phaethon brings it closer to the Sun (within 6.4 million miles) between December 4-16 every year. It's an object that has long fascinated astronomers, and the Japanese Space Agency has plans to visit it in a mission called Destiny+, which will launch in 2022. The trailing debris from that solar event could be what created the Geminids, according to NASA. "If you're lucky, you'll see perhaps 60 meteors in an hour, which is one meteor per minute", but "30 to 40 per hour is much more realistic", he said.

When is the next meteor shower?

WHEN: Closest to Earth on December 16, but dimly visible already (best viewed with binoculars or telescope). That title goes to the Ursids, which peak on December 22. As well as offering only about five or 10 shooting stars per hour, the Ursids occur this year during strong moonlight, which will boring them even more.

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