You may have already seen some shooting stars across the sky the past few nights. One of the top meteor showers of the year will peak tonight. The Geminid meteor shower occurs each year during mid-December, and produces the most meteors per hour of any other shower.
This year's Geminids are billed as the “best shower” of the year. These meteors are bright. The thin, waning crescent Moon won't spoil the view tonight. Meanwhile, the Perseid meteor shower back in August was obscured by a nearly full moon.
You may spot a meteor as early as 7 PM this evening, but the best viewing window will be between 10 PM and 3 AM. During this peak time, one to two meteors per minute will be visible, under good conditions. The Geminids feature broad activity and will be visible across any parts of the night sky.
(Credit: Gregg Dinderman/Sky & Telescope)
Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a trail of dust or debris created by an asteroid. The Geminid meteor shower is associated with the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This asteroid sheds material as it passes close to the Sun. The Geminids were first observed in 1833 along the Mississippi River.
This year's Geminids will be extra special because the Phaethon will take its closest path to Earth since 1983. The asteroid won't come this close again until 2093. All together is would make for a dazzling show as long as the clouds cooperate.