As far as meteor showers are concerned, we’re in luck. Next Wednesday’s Geminid Meteor shower is expected to be a brilliant, burning light show. The shower will peak the night of the December 13th and be visible from most points on Earth through the morning of the 14th.
The Geminids have historically been one of the most brilliant meteor showers of the year. When judging these light shows, the number of meteors visible per hour is sometimes used as a proxy of brightness. For the Geminids, that number can go as high as 120 meteors per hour. And as Jupiter’s pull draws meteorites closer and closer to Earth over time, the Geminid meteor shower becomes brighter by the year, according to Space.com.
Last year, the normally brilliant Geminids were outshone by a supermoon. But this year, the moon is expected to be in phase that will keep any extra light from interfering.
It might seem unfortunate that one of the greatest meteor showers of the year comes as winter is ramping up. But if it’s too cold for you to get yourself outside to watch, there are plenty of ways to stream the fireballs. The website Slooh provides a free live stream the meteor shower.
Meteor showers get their names from the stars around which they appear to fall. The Leonids appear to fall from Leo the Lion, the Orionids from Orion, and the Geminids from Gemini.
The Geminids stand apart from these other events, though. Most meteor showers are the dust of comets from previous passages through Earth’s orbit. The Geminids are one of two meteor showers known to originate from an asteroid (in the Geminids’ case, that’s Asteroid 3200 Phateon), not a comet.
The meteor shower is almost 200 years old, according to Space.com. The shower is first known to have been spotted by observers on a riverboat running along the Mississippi river in 1833. For those who do not have access to a riverboat, or simply can’t get out of a light polluted area like a densely populated city, it’s still possible to see some of the meteorites.
But, as always, the best recommendation is to get somewhere truly dark if you can. On Wednesday night, head to an open space without anything blocking your view of the sky, and look up.