General · 13th December 2017
Thanks to Space.com
If it's clear outside on Wednesday night (Dec. 13) and Thursday morning (Dec. 14) before dawn, be sure to go outdoors. One of the year's top meteor showers, the Geminids, will peak, with rates as high as one or two meteors per minute at around 10 p.m. your local time (wherever you're observing from). However, the show will start around 7 p.m. local time, according to the magazine Sky & Telescope.
But if you can't make it out, or if skies are gloomy, you can also watch a Geminids webcast here on Space.com courtesy of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama starting at about 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) on Dec. 13. The Virtual Telescope Project will also host a webcast here showing live views from Italy, starting at 5 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) on Dec. 13, and Arizona, starting at 5 a.m. (1000 GMT) on Dec. 14.
The Slooh online observatory will also host a webcast at Slooh.com beginning at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT) for members who have registered with the site (registration is free).
"The Geminids are usually one of the two best meteor showers of the year," Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope, said in a statement. "Sometimes, they're more impressive than the better-known Perseids of August." [Geminid Meteor Shower 2017: When, Where & How to See It Next]
The Geminids will shine brightly this year with almost no obscuring moonlight. The most meteors will appear in the hours after midnight, although you can see a good show earlier, too.
Credit: Gregg Dinderman/Sky & Telescope
The meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, which is in between the constellations Taurus and Cancer. To find Gemini, look for the bright constellation Orion (easily visible due to the "belt" of three stars in a row). Gemini is just over Orion's right shoulder. But there's no need to look directly at Gemini to see the meteors.
"Don't fixate on looking toward Gemini," Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope, said in the statement. "Geminids can appear anywhere in the sky, so the best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, which is probably straight up."
You just need some warm clothing and your eyes to see a meteor shower in person. But if you have a small telescope and are watching in the Northern Hemisphere, you will get an extra treat. The source for the Geminids, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, is coincidentally making its closest approach to Earth this week and so has 11th-magnitude visibility. (Lower magnitudes are brighter. By comparison, the faintest stars you can see with the naked eye are around magnitude 6, and the planet Venus is minus 5.) To find Phaethon, you can use this sky chart on Space.com.
Comment by Doug on 13th December 2017
Interesting article,although it would have been helpful to point out ,to the uninformed ,who don't have a star chart handy just roughly where Orion's Belt might be found North? ,Southwest?- or wherever ? ---save a lot of futile searching on such a cold night!