The best meteor shower of the year is peaking tonight, December 13, 2013.
The Geminid shower will be visible around the world until at least Monday, but scientists say the best viewing is tonight between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.
“The Geminids are visible best after midnight, but they will be competing with a bright moon,” notes Lisa Will, a physicist at San Diego City College.
Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office says otherwise. He told reporters on Dec. 11, “This year, there will be a magic hour starting at about 4 a.m. up until dawn that there will be no moon and you’ll be able to see the Geminids in their full glory.”
The Geminid meteor shower, named for the constellation Gemini, is peaking late tonight into Saturday morning, with about 90 to 120 meteors per hour. Geminid meteors appear to fall from near the star Castor, one of the “heads” of the constellation Gemini, the twins. Stargazers can expect to get the best views of the shower, with your local weather permitting, at around 4 a.m. local time Saturday morning after the waxing moon sets, according to Cooke.
The Geminid shower appears every year as Earth passes through the dusty trail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon. When the Geminids were first observed in the 19th Century, their peak was a mere 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
“The Geminids are my favorite because they defy explanation. Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids are by far the most massive,” Cooke added. “When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.”
“The best thing to do to observe meteors is to lie flat on your back and look straight up,” Cooke said. “You don’t want to look at Gemini, you just want to look straight up and take in as much of the sky as possible because meteors can appear anywhere in the sky and the more sky you see, the better you chance of seeing a meteor.”
If your local weather doesn’t permit for viewing experience, a free live feed of the Geminids from an observatory on the Canary Islands will start at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) and run into the night, ending at 1 a.m. EST (0600 GMT).
Watch Geminid Meteor Shower Live
Join Slooh’s broadcast team for all night coverage of one of the richest annular meteor showers of the year.
Image Credit: StarGate.org