If it weren’t already pretty obvious, we here at tentree have a thing about outer space. It’s what inspired us to create our glow-in-the-dark constellation collection! Throughout the year, there are a number of really cool celestial events that inspire us to think big. Among them is the Geminid meteor shower, which is peaking in the early morning hours of December 13th and 14th.
The Geminid meteor shower gets its name from the part of the sky the meteors seem to originate. These meteors radiate near the star Castor, which is found in the Gemini constellation. But the meteors don’t actually come from Castor. They actually eminate from a rocky comet called 3200 Phaethon.
As the Earth passes through the comet’s tail, the debris from the tail, which moves at 80,000 miles per hour, vaporizes high in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating the spectacle that is the Geminid meteor shower.
The Geminids are visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, though they can be seen better in the north. The meteor shower is best viewed at approximately 2:00AM local time for all parts of the sky. This is the time when the Gemini constellation rises to its highest point in the sky, which brings the meteors’ radiance point to its highest position.
Finding the radiance point can be a bit challenging. Castor is a very bright star compared to the stars nearby. There are a number of free apps that can be installed on your phone that will help you identify the location of different stars in the night sky. As always, be careful to properly vet free apps before downloading to be certain they’re safe!
Otherwise, no special gear or equipment is needed to see these meteors. All you need is a dark sky unimpeded by city light pollution or trees. While no special gear is needed, since it is winter, we would advise bringing warm clothes, some blankets, and a thermos of hot chocolate.
The Geminid meteor shower got a lot of attention in 2017 due to the relative closeness of 3200 Phaethon to the Earth. This year, the comet is much further away, which may cause a slightly less spectacular shower. Even so, you should see between 50 and 100 meteors per hour during peak viewing time!