The Most Spectacular Meteor Shower of the Year Is Upon Us

Meteor falling via NASA

Meteor falling via NASA

The US is tipped to have prime astronomical conditions to view the shower.

How many of these shooting stars can you expect to see?

What if it's cloudy on the big night of the Geminids, Dec. 13-14? The Geminid meteor shower will be taking place for the next two weeks, starting tonight (Dec. 4).

Every year on about the same dates, Earth passes through swarms of rocky particles associated with the orbits of various comets.

The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, which rises around sunset and climbs almost overhead by 2 a.m.

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Why is this year so favorable for the Geminids? This year should offer a wonderful meteor show.

This year, the night sky will be particularly dark for the peak of the Geminid shower, as the moon will only be a small sliver in the sky.

The Geminids meteor showers will peak on the evening of December 13 and continue until early morning December 14. But the climax of the shower this year is predicted to occur about 1 a.m. December 14 - which is only one hour before the radiant in Gemini is highest for observers in the eastern U.S. So next week, Wednesday evening to Thursday dawn, should provide the very best numbers. Meteors should be visible across the entire sky, though the best way to catch them is to look south toward the constellation. That being said, you'll have to temper your expectations according to where you live; the light pollution in cities can impede visibility considerably, with numbers dwindling to around 10-15 per hour.

The stars - or at least the Moon - will align this month for a terrific display of meteors. Geminids come in all colors, sometimes have boisterous flaring, bursting flights, and sometimes leave lingering, luminous trails. In addition to magnificent glowing bright white meteors, Geminids have been known to produce yellow, blue, red and even green meteors. You'll begin seeing them in the sky as early as 9 or 10 p.m. local time, no matter where you are. If you live in the United Kingdom, with its unending proclivity for leaden skies, you may not be so lucky but don't despair; you may still get a chance to see some ethereal pairings of the crescent moon with the planets Jupiter and Mars instead.

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