Geminids Shower Tonight is the Year’s Best – And Viewing Weather for Most of the U.S. Couldn’t Be Better

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One of the best meteor showers of the year, the Geminids Meteor Shower, will peak tonight. It seems like only yesterday I was looking up in the sky hoping for a view of the Leonids meteor shower but, in fact, it was already a month ago (how time flies!). I remember being disappointed then — there were a few clouds and I was impatient, to boot. I don’t remember seeing a single meteor.

The Gemini constellation is easy to spot with the naked eye. Though this region will be where most meteors originate from, any sector of the night sky should reveal the comparatively slow-moving Geminids (roughly 22 miles per second).

Tonight, I hope, will be different. First, the Geminids shower is the best of the year. An average of 60 meteors per hour are expected as they burn across the sky. That’s better than January’s Quadrantids (40 per hour), better than April’s Lyrids (20 per), much better than the barely noticeable Eta Aquarids (10 per) in May, better than July’s Southern Delta Aquarids (20 per), better than October’s Orionids (20 per), better than last month’s Leonids (40 per) and right up there with the Perseids in August (also about 60 per). Second, the moon is new tonight, so totally dark (last month the crescent moon set early for the Leonids). Third, the Geminids are thought to be increasing year after year with a peak intensity of 120-160 meteors possible under optimal conditions (though the ZHRmax tonight is predicted to be 120 per hour, the effective viewing rate is always much less). Next, and unlike the Leonids, the Geminids meteors are slow-moving with easier-to-spot arcs. And lastly, skies should be clear in many areas across the country. Unfortunately for my part of Southeast Texas, the last few nights of clear, crisp weather should begin to give way to increasing clouds so that a smart sky watcher would be best served by building extra patience into the schedule while hoping for a decent break in the clouds. (Check your local forecast here.)

Fair, chilly weather is expected for most across the U.S. Ideal meteor shower viewing. Image: ImpactWeather

The Geminids, as they always do, appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, but originate instead from the object 3200 Phaethon — an asteroid, not a comet. Best viewing in the U.S. will be shortly after midnight while searching the eastern sky and, of course, try to be as far away from any light pollution as possible. Don’t worry if you can’t view tonight as the show will go on, though with lesser intensity, through the 19th.

ImpactWeather has written about these nighttime shows before and you can read a couple of them here and here.

Also, I wanted to include links to all the various meteor showers but find it quite distracting when reading a paragraph that’s chocked full of hyperlinks. So, like construction equipment parked on the side of the highway, here they all are (in order by mention): Geminids, Leonids, Quadrantids, Lyrids, Eta Aquarids, Southern Delta Aquarids, Orionids, Perseids.

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