The Geminid Meteor Shower Is the Weekend’s Best Show. Here’s How to See It
If you have a hankering to watch bits of space rock entering Earth’s atmosphere and bursting into flames, well, lucky you! This Sunday, the Geminid meteor shower will near its peak, which means prime viewing of astronomy in all its glorious, incandescent action. Dedicated stargazers call the Geminids one of the year’s best showers, because it’s reliable, easy to see, and full of meteors: At its peak, more than 100 meteors will whiz by Earth each hour.
What causes the shower?
It’s the rocky trail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon, glowing bright as it screams into Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of around 22 miles per second. Other than a space rock, astronomers aren’t sure what Phaethon is, exactly. Most meteor showers stem from comets, but Phaethon doesn’t quite act like one, so astronomers have speculated that it could be either a dead comet or something called a rock comet. (Which still doesn’t explain where all that gravelly stuff is coming from.) Either way, the Earth rotates into its dusty path every year in mid-December. The meteor shower isn’t related to the Gemini constellation, astronomically—the name simply refers to the fact that the meteors look like they’re coming from that part of the sky.
How can I see it?
The shower will peak sometime during the day on Monday, but you can still see some shooting stars Sunday and Monday night starting at around 9 or 10 p.m., when it’s dark. They’re visible worldwide, so get as far away from city lights as you can and look for clear skies. Then, lie back and revel in the beauty of the cosmos.
Okay, but I’m lazy.
Watch a livestream of the shower below, you bum. It starts Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.
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