Meteor Shower: A Bright Holiday Treat

Over 100 meteors are recorded in this composite image taken during the peak of the Geminid meteor shower in 2014. | Image by NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser

For all those with holiday magic twinkling in their eyes this time of year, here’s a chance to look to the skies and be showered with light and captivating beauty.

The Geminids meteor shower is currently active and will bring an estimated 120 meteors per hour during its peak.

It first appeared in the mid-1800s and is recognized today as “one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers,” according to NASA.

The Geminids became active on November 19 and will remain through December 24. However, if you are looking for a special treat, the peak viewing time for the Geminids will be December 14, so mark your calendar!

If you are planning to bear witness to the mesmerizing meteor showers, then you should keep in mind the following helpful tips provided by NASA.

The best time to view the Geminids is during the night and predawn hours when the sky is comparatively darker. The shower usually begins around 9 or 10 p.m., so it is best to prepare beforehand. To enhance your viewing experience, finding a spot away from light pollution, such as an open field, is recommended. This will provide an unobstructed view of the night sky, making the meteor shower even more spectacular.

Before heading out, check the weather to dress accordingly and bring a blanket. Find a spot to lie down on your back, with your feet facing south, and gaze up at the sky. It may take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, but be patient, as the Geminids will be visible throughout the night until dawn. Remember to take in as much of the sky as you can.

The meteor shower will begin to appear like shooting stars, blazing a bright streak, yellow in color, and fast, traveling 79,000 mph, or about 22 miles per second!

The Geminids meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Gemini, but the constellation is not the point of origin for these meteors. The actual source of the meteor shower is an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon. This makes the Geminids meteor shower unique in that it did not originate from a comet.

According to NASA, 3200 Phaethon takes 1.4 years to orbit the Sun once and is possibly a “dead comet” or a “rock comet,” a new type of celestial object being discussed by astronomers.

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