Observe the Premier Annual Meteor Shower — The Geminids

The Geminid meteor shower is widely considered to be one of the best showers of the year. The Geminids produce many bright, slow moving meteors and are the only major shower to present good activity in the early evening hours.

As the name indicates the shower’s “radiant”, the point at which meteors originate, is near the star Castor (Alpha Geminorum), which rises at this time of year as darkness falls.

Geminid Meteors E Hor 13 Dec 17

The shower is predicted to peak Wednesday night/Thursday morning December 13/14 at 6:30 UT 14 December (2:30 am EST) but you may observe “earth grazer” fireballs during the evening hours.

Prime observing time will be around 2 am local time when the Geminids radiant will be high in the southeast, but get out anytime after dark and enjoy the show.

Geminids No Lines 13 Dec 17

Under dark skies you may see as many as 50 Geminids hourly, fewer if you’re under urban, light polluted skies.

The Moon will cooperate, a waning 10% crescent rising in the “wee small hours” around 3 am.

This shower has a wide peak over several days so if your weather forecast calls for cloudy weather Wednesday night get out Monday or Tuesday nights.

The Geminids shower produces a peak average zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of 120. ZHR is defined as the number of meteors a single average observer would see if the radiant were directly overhead and the sky dark and transparent with a limited stellar magnitude of +6.5.

Such conditions are rarely met.

Bundle up, make yourself comfortable in a lounge chair and watch the darkest part of the sky. Binoculars or a telescope are not necessary.

Visit the American Meteor Society website and read Robert Lunsford’s treatise on Viewing The Geminids

See the NASA/Ames Research Center CAMS webpage. CAMS is an automated video surveillance of the night sky to validate the IAU Working List of Meteor Showers.

Graphics produced with Stellarium.