The Geminids meteor shower of 2017 will reach its peak next week, offering people the chance to see a dazzling show of shooting stars.
The annual event is an even bigger one this year due to a couple of reasons, so sky watchers should make plans to watch the Geminids.
The Geminids Meteor Shower: The Best One This Year?
The annual Geminids meteor shower, unlike the Perseids meteor shower in August, will not be obscured by bright moonlight. There will be a waning crescent moon, but it will not spoil "the best shower this year," according to Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office of NASA.
The Geminids look like they will be making up for last year when the meteor shower competed with a supermoon for attention in the night sky.
In addition to promising a more-spectacular-than-usual sight, this year's Geminids meteor shower will also bring its source, the 3200 Phaethon, the closest that it will ever be to the Earth since its discovery in 1983.
The 3200 Phaethon remains a huge mystery after all these years. The object leaves behind a cloud of debris that results in the Geminids meteor shower, but it is unknown whether it is an asteroid, a dead comet, or something else altogether.
On Dec. 16, astronomers will get the closest look so far on the 3200 Phaethon in an attempt to learn more about it.
When And How To Watch The Geminids Meteor Shower
The Geminids meteor show actually runs from Dec. 4 to Dec. 23, but its peak will be on the evening of Dec. 13 to the early morning of Dec. 14.
Over recent years, the Geminids meteor shower featured rates of 60 to 120 shooting stars per hour for observers. However, to enjoy such an amazing show, sky watchers will need to keep in mind some tips.
The Geminids meteor shower is called such because their source or what is called the radiant, is in the constellation Gemini. Gemini rises in the east and gets higher as the sky gets darker, with the chance to see the most meteors in the period from midnight to 4:00 a.m., NASA said. According to the American Meteor Society, there will be about 100 or more shooting stars between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m.
For people who would like to see the best possible Geminids show, it is recommended to watch the annual event in a dark location with minimal light pollution. Sky watchers who are stuck in bright cities, however, will still see a glimpse of the Geminids meteor shower, as the shooting stars will be that bright and plenty.
Time to make a long list of wishes!