The most spectacular meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, happens tonight -- here's how to watch

  • The Geminids will be the most spectacular meteor shower of the year due to a dark sky tonight.
  • The meteor shower will be visible from most of the world, but is best seen from the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Shooting stars will peak overnight between December 13 and 14, with about one meteor per minute between midnight and 4 a.m.

Don’t forget to look up at the sky tonight.

Every December, as our planet completes its annual journey around the sun, Earth passes through the tail of debris from a mysterious rocky object known as 3200 Phaethon.

We don’t know exactly what it is.

“Phaethon’s nature is debated,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a blog post. “It’s either a near-Earth asteroid or an extinct comet, sometimes called a rock comet.”

But we do know that when the dust and rocky grit from Phaethon hit Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a spectacular show: the Geminids meteor shower.

This year, the Geminids will be the best meteor shower of the year, according to Cooke, since August’s Perseids were somewhat outshone by the moon. This year’s crescent moon won’t rise until the early morning, leaving a dark sky for most of the night.

To best see the shooting stars, get away from bright lights as much as possible. The Geminids are visible from most of the world, though the view is better from the Northern Hemisphere. There’ll be good meteor activity starting at about 7:30 p.m. on December 13 going until dawn on December 14, according to Cooke. Peak activity is expected from midnight to 4 a.m.

During those hours, there should be about one visible meteor per minute if conditions are good where you are. If you live somewhere dark, you might also spot a few meteors in the following nights.

“When you see a meteor, try to trace it backwards,” Cooke said. “If you end up in the constellation Gemini there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Geminid.”

If you’re in a place where a dark sky is hard to come by, you can check out NASA’s livestream from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, starting at sunset.

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