The Geminids meteor shower — regularly one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year — will be reaching its peak tonight, on December 13, 2013 (early morning hours of December 14, 2013).
While the peak rate would typically occur sometime around 2 AM (local time), this year you might want to wait until after the bright Moon sets — which will occur right around 3:30 AM for those on the East Coast. Thanks to the high peak rate of the Geminids, and the brightness of its meteors, you’ll be able to see a fair of meteors even while the Moon is out though — so it isn’t necessary to wait for Moonset, if you don’t want to.
The Geminids’ peak rate this year is predicted to be relatively hight, somewhere right around 50-60 meteors an hour. And as always with the Geminids, there will likely be a number of super-bright “fireballs” visible in addition to the “regular” meteors — fireballs are extremely bright meteors that sometimes leave behind persistent trails.
The Geminids meteor shower puts on its best show for those in the Northern Hemisphere, but those down under in the Southern Hemisphere will get a pretty good show as well — of course the closer to the equator/Northern Hemisphere that you are, the better that show will be.
As far as what you’ll need to know for watching the meteor shower — the Geminids will appear to be originating out of the constellation Gemini, in the Eastern portion of the late night’s sky. You’ll see meteors regardless of where you’re looking though.
For information on 2013’s other meteor showers, see: Meteor Showers 2013, Dates and Times, Geminids, Leonids, Ursids, Taurids, Perseids, Quadrantids, Etc.
To keep tabs on all celestial events, simply download this annual calendar of celestial events! (It’s a free PDF).
Some basic tips for meteor watching:
• What you want is the darkest sky that you can find, preferably far away from city lights — dark, rural locations are the ideal.
• Try to get as comfortable as you can— a reclining chair, warm clothes, blankets, pillows, etc.
• A cup of warm coffee or hot chocolate tends to make the experience more enjoyable.
Image Credit: Geminid via Flickr CC