Geminids: How to Watch Winter’s Busiest Meteor Shower Tonight

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The winter’s busiest meteor shower has arrived. Monday night, activity from the Geminid meteor shower will peak, creating the busiest cosmic show of the season. Those wanting to watch may have to stay up a bit later than usual as the green-ish fireballs will streak across the sky late Monday night into Tuesday morning. In fact, shower activity is expected to peak around 2 a.m. local time.

The Geminids travel about 29 miles above the Earth’s surface and because they’re typically denser than other meteor showers, researchers anticipate between 30-40 meteors will be visible per hour.

The meteor shower is viewed best by those in the Northern Hemisphere, but the moon–which will be near 80-percent full–could pose some viewing problems. Because of that, experts suggest waiting until 2 a.m. before getting a good look at the night sky. As with other stargazing activities, you’ll have the best chance at seeing meteors in places with the lowest light pollution.

The pros recommend you get to your go-to star-viewing spot at least 30 minutes beforehand so your eyes are able to properly adjust to the darkness. Since the Geminids are so dense, they should be able to be viewed all over the sky.

What are the Geminids?

As far as scientists know, the Geminids are the remnants of a “celestial object” known to NASA as 3200 Phaethon, which some experts believe was once a comet. Others suggest the Geminids come from the remnants of an asteroid.

Since the Geminids are much denser than comparable meteors, they typically get much closer to the surface of the planet before burning up, unlike the summer-time Perseids. They travel into Earth’s atmosphere around 78,000 miles per hour, and they got their name from their point of origin–the constellation Gemini.

“Rich in green-colored fireballs, the Geminids are the only shower I will brave cold December nights to see,” Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said in a blog post by NASA.

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If you’re unable to watch Monday night’s event, NASA will be streaming it live on its Meteor Watch Facebook Page. You can watch the stream here.

Cover photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images

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