See the Geminids this Week

The next few nights bring the peak the Geminids, one of the year’s better meteor showers. It’s usually a toss up as to which is better, the Perseids of August or the Geminids, though lately the Geminids have been routinely out-producing the Perseids. If the sky is clear it will provide one of the few nights of the year when it’s almost guaranteed that you will be able to observe a meteor after about 10-20 minutes of observing.

From a dark, moon-less sky, the Geminids have been known to consistently produce rates of over 100 meteors per hour at their peak. Unlike most showers that can only be observed in the early hours of the morning, the Geminids can be seen in good numbers as early as 10 pm and are great anytime after midnight. The Geminids will appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini near the bright star Castor.

For observers in the US the best time should be Thursday/Friday night. Still a good display should be visible tonight (Wed/Thu night) as well. Last night (Tue/Wed night) rates reached a ZHR of ~30-40 per hour. Tonight rates should be even better, probably in the range of 40-60. Note that ZHR rates of 40-60 will only be visible to observers under very dark skies with the radiant overhead. Most of us will see lower rates due to light pollution. The brighter your sky the less meteors you’ll see.

For more information on observing the Geminids, check out Bob Lunsford’s post at the American Meteor Society.

The International Meteor Organization has a live real-time display of Geminid rates.

For more on Phaethon, the source asteroid of the Geminids, check out this NASA Science News report.

About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

4 Responses to See the Geminids this Week

  1. KIM tHALER says:

    I observed what appeared to be a large comet with a tail that had sparks falling from it at 6:40 am Dec 11, 2012. I was driving up La Cholla toward Orange Grove. This comet looked low below the mountains before it burned out.

  2. Rick Leibow says:

    thanks!!!! We live in Hawaii what direction do we look? I don’t understand your usual numbers, can you just tell me for exampl “Northeast, about 130 degrees up (180 being straight up, 90 being toward the horizon)? that would be helpful…Mahalo! Rick

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Rick, It really doesn’t matter too much where you look. Even though the meteors will be coming from a point in the constellation of Gemini (in the northeast in the evening hours, overhead around midnight to 4am and in the northwest from 4 am till dawn), they will be visible all over the sky. The best thing is to use a reclining chair (such as a beach chair) and find the most comfortable position and direction to watch without a lot of lights, buildings or trees in the way.

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