Science

How to Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower.
The Geminid meteor shower is visible every year in December.
Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks on Thursday and Friday night, is likely your best chance to see shooting stars this year.

Earth is currently hurtling through a mass of dust and debris from the 3200 Phaethon asteroid, producing a meteor shower visible to people in both hemispheres as the detritus incinerates in the atmosphere.

The best time to view the shower will be between about 10:30 p.m. local time and sunrise. According to NASA, prime viewing settings will be in the Northern Hemisphere directly facing the constellation Gemini with little to no light pollution or clouds. (The website Dark Site Finder can help you find a suitable spot.)

For viewers in a perfect location, the rate of meteors will theoretically hit its maximum of 100 per hour at around 2:00 a.m. For optimal viewing, you should first stare into the dark for around 30 minutes to allow your eyes to adapt.

People in the suburbs should be able to see meteors at a rate of about 30 per hour, while those in major cities likely won’t see anything at all because of light pollution. However, city dwellers can still watch a livestream of the shower from the Slooh observatory for a fee.

The meteors will appear as green fireballs leaving streaks of light in their wakes. There will also be a green blur in the sky at around the same time as the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen approaches Earth.