Get Ready for Winter’s Brightest Meteor Shower

The 2018 Geminid Meteor Shower will peak the night of December 13-14. According to experts if you’re able to escape the light pollution from cities and find a really dark sky you should be able to see upwards of 100 meteors an hour. If your skies are less dark, due to light pollution, you will not see as many. While you should be able to see the shooting stars as early as 8pm, the best time to view should be after 2am giving the moon time to set.

The meteors wills appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. To find Gemini, look southwest to find Orion, the hunter. The constellation Orion is easy to find if you can spot the three lined stars that make the hunter’s belt. The Gemini constellation is just above Orion and slightly to the left.  Although the meteors will appear to come from Gemini you should look slightly away from the constellation to catch the meteors with the best tails.

The meteors you will see are debris from 3200 Phaethon, an extinct comet. The earth crosses the debris field of 3200 Phaethon yearly in mid-December causing the spectacular display.

The good news is you don’t need special equipment to see the meteors as they will be visible to the naked eye. I’ve found it best to take a friend or two with you. That way each of you can watch the sky and alert the group when you see “shooting star.” Wishes are optional. If you’re going to try and watch the meteors be sure to dress warm, pack a chair or a blanket, and give your eyes plenty of time to adjust. It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust in the dark.  Be patient, meteors are unpredictable tend to come in spurts, which means you may see several in a brief period followed by a lull.

You might also enjoy reading about when and where to look to see Comet46p/Wirtanen as it makes a close approach to Earth this month in the Palmetto Weekend article:  A Small Comet Will Fly By Earth This Month.