A dazzling display is about to unfold in the night sky as one of the most reliable meteor showers of the entire year approaches its peak.
Every year, skywatchers around the globe circle Dec. 13 on their calendars, the night that the Geminid meteor shower reaches its climax, although the celestial light show is best seen from a spot north of the equator.
This is the perfect event for younger stargazers with an earlier bedtime as the Geminids are one of the only major meteor showers that are active during the evening. Shooting stars will start to streak across the night sky by around 9 p.m., local time, and will continue to increase in frequency through 2 a.m., local time.
For the Geminids, it is not the time of night that the shower peaks that draws curious eyes to the night sky, but the number of meteors that spark after dark.
More than 100 meteors per hour can be counted in a typical year’s shower, but 2020’s showing could boast as many as 150 meteors per hour in very dark areas, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS). This averages out to about two or three meteors per minute.
“The Geminids produce a good number of meteors most years, but they’re made even better this year as the shower’s peak coincides with a nearly new moon, thus making for darker skies, with no moonlight to interfere with the fainter meteors,” NASA explained.
Light pollution from nearby cities, towns and highways can reduce the number of meteors visible to the unaided eye, so those looking to get the most out of the best meteor shower of 2020 should travel to a dark area, such as a nearby park, that has an open view of the sky.
“For the best viewing, find a safe location away from bright city lights, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointing south and look up,” NASA advises. “Meteors can appear in any part of the sky, though they’ll appear to radiate from near the constellation Gemini.”
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