How to watch the Geminid Meteor Shower illuminate the night sky this week
The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks this week -- and it has a reputation for being a good one to watch.
This shower is known as the Geminids because the radiant point is very near Castor in Gemini -- the "Twins."
The interesting thing about this meteor shower is that it's the first from an asteroid and not from a comet.
The parent is Phaethon, discovered in 1983 and it orbits every 1.4 years. Some say this could be a "dead" comet, as it has no icy shell. It comes very close to the sun, closer than any other asteroid, so that's enough for it to crack and shed some dust.
The average speed of a Geminid is 78,000 mph, and they burn up about 45-55 miles up in the atmosphere.
Earth cuts through Phaethon's orbit the first three weeks of December, passing through the core on the night of Dec. 13-14. The shower ends around Dec. 17.
This year we have a waning gibbous moon, which may impact viewing. Rates can be as high as 100-150 meteors an hour, but that's under a perfectly dark sky. Rates could go as high as 30-40 meteors an hour in a more rural setting.
Gemini rises in the east and by 9 p.m., it's high enough above the horizon. It's best to not stare directly at the constellation, as the meteors may appear anywhere in the sky.
Your best bet is to go out late, stay away from the moon and bundle up. It's going to get quite cold later in the week.