'Flurry of shooting stars': How to watch the Geminid meteor shower this month
In addition to the upcoming Jupiter and Saturn conjunction, stargazers will also be able to see the Geminid meteor shower this month.
TORONTO -- In addition to the upcoming Jupiter and Saturn conjunction, stargazers will also be able to see the Geminid meteor shower this month.
The shower is expected to be active from Dec. 4-17, but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says prime viewing days will be Dec. 13-14.
According to NASA, the Geminid will be one of the biggest showers of the year with upwards of 120 meteors per hour during its peak – weather permitting.
The space agency says this year's showers will be even more dazzling than previous ones, as the shower's peak coincides with a new moon that will turn the sky darker than normal.
NASA said there will be no moonlight to interfere with the Geminid’s bright and fast meteors that tend to appear yellow in colour.
NASA says the Geminid meteor shower is active each December as the Earth orbits through the trail of "dusty debris" left behind from asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
"The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth’s atmosphere in a flurry of 'shooting stars'," the space agency said.
NASA astronomers say the asteroid, which was discovered in October 1983, might actually be a "burnt-out comet" due to its comet-like orbit and unusual meteors.
The Geminids, which first began appearing in the mid-1800s, appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, according to NASA, but astronomers say the meteors can appear in any part of the sky.
For those looking to take in the cosmic event, NASA said viewing will be "good all night for the Northern Hemisphere" with activity expected to start around 10:30 p.m. local time and peak around 2 a.m.
Viewers in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to take in the sights after midnight.
For best results, NASA suggests sky watchers "find a safe location away from bright city lights, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointing south and look up."
The space agency recommends looking slightly away from the constellation Gemini to see the meteors streak across the sky, adding they will look like shooting stars if the night sky is clear. Those who stare directly at Gemini will see the meteors "radiate" from the constellation.