December 12, 2015 5:26 pm

The Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight and Tomorrow Night

Photo of Geminids taken by Fred Bruenjes, courtesy of Sky and Telescope.

Courtesy of Sky and Telescope: This photo shows Geminids streaming away from the shower’s radiant near the star Castor. It was made by combining 83 out of 1,256 exposures shot over an 11-hour time span on December 13-14, 2004. Image Credit: Fred Bruenjes.

Once again, the Geminids are upon us.

And once again, clouds will obscure the Geminids for some of us.

But let’s assume you’re one of the lucky ones with cloudless skies and a waxing crescent Moon.

In that case, you could be in for an excellent night of oohs and aahs, with up to 120 meteors per hour at peak.

In fact, this year’s Geminids could give August’s Perseids a run for their money, according to Sky & Telescope’s viewing guide.

The Geminid meteor shower competes with August’s Perseids for showiness — yet it’s not nearly as well known. The Geminids are easier on your sleep schedule too. Their radiant (near Castor in Gemini) climbs as high by 11 p.m. standard time (45° above the local horizon) as the Perseid radiant does by 2 a.m. daylight time on the peak Perseid nights. The higher the radiant, the more meteors you’ll see.

We’ve got reason to get excited. Universe Today says this year’s show is “near optimal”:

The 2015 Geminids are near optimal, with the Moon a waxing crescent on the key date of Sunday going into Monday December 14th, safely out of the way and 10% illuminated, only three days past New. The Geminids have a projected plateau of activity running from 1:00 UT to 23:00 UT on December 14th, with an expected maximum falling right around 12:00 UT/07:00 AM EST. Interestingly, this peak should favor viewers along western North America in the pre-dawn hours.

You can read more in Universe Today’s excellent viewing guide.

So let’s say you are one of the lucky ones – how can you be sure to maximize this weekend’s opportunity? We suggest reviewing EarthSky’s top 10 tips for meteor watchers.

Clouds or no clouds, my hopes are high for a great show this year. We’re due, the moon won’t be a factor, and the good thing about clouds is that, silver linings aside, they’re not glued in place. With a potential peak of 120 meteors per hour, even the clouds aren’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this year’s Geminids.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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