The Geminids are considered one of the best meteor showers each year.

see the geminid meteor shower light up the night sky this week on dec. 14
An illustration of the night sky on Dec. 13 showing the Geminid meteor shower originating from near the bright star Castor in the constellation of Gemini. (Image credit: Starry Night Education)

The annual Geminids meteor shower reaches its peak on Wednesday (Dec. 14). 

The peak of the Geminid meteor shower offers skywatchers the opportunity to view what is regarded as the most consistent and reliable meteor shower of the year while at its best  — as long as they are willing to brave the frigid weather of mid-December.

Over New York City the Geminids peak at 8:00 am EST (1300 GMT) on Wednesday (Dec. 15). As a result, the best displays should be seen in the pre-dawn hours on this day, according to In the Sky (opens in new tab).

This year the Geminids have been active since Dec. 4, and will end on Dec. 17. During this period, the best way to see plenty of meteors is to view the sky when the viewing location is pointed towards the shower’s radiant point, found in the constellation of Gemini. 

More meteors from the Geminids shower will be seen when its radiant point is above the horizon, with the number of meteors increasing as this point rises higher in the sky. For astronomers in New York City, the Geminids will become visible at around 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT) each night when the radiant point rises above the horizon and the radiant point will be at its highest at around 2:00 a.m. EST on Dec. 15 (0700 GMT).

EarthSky recommends (opens in new tab) not waiting for this point, however, instead suggesting to attempt to view the meteor shower after its radiant point is above the horizon but before the moon, which will be in its waning gibbous phase, rises and illuminates the night sky. This is because the bright streaks and fireballs created by meteors are most visible in dark skies.

In suitably dark conditions with clear skies and no moon, skywatchers could spot as many as 120 Geminid meteors per hour at its peak.

see the geminid meteor shower light up the night sky this week on dec. 14

Geminid meteor shower captured above a railroad water tower at Dos Cabezas Siding in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, U.S.  (Image credit: Kevin Key / Slworking)

Meteor showers occur when Earth, on its annual journey around the sun, passes through clouds of debris left behind by comets or asteroids. These fragments enter our planet’s atmosphere at high speeds and burn up creating streaks of light and the occasional bright fireball created by larger pebble-sized chunks of material.

The Geminid meteor shower can be traced back to dusty debris left behind by the asteroid or possible ‘rock comet’ 3200 Phaethon that Earth passes through each December. This 3.6-mile (5.8-kilometer) wide space rock comes closer to the sun than any other named asteroid and is considered a strange hybrid somewhere between an asteroid and comet. This is because while 3200 Phaethon is composed of rock (like an asteroid) rather than ice (like a comet), it brightens when it approaches the sun once around every 524 Earth days similar to the behavior of a comet, not an asteroid.

Comets usually act like this when the icy material within them changes immediately from solid to gas due to the heat of the sun, a process called sublimation. In lieu of ice, which was baked off the space rock long ago thanks to its frequent close brushes with our star, 3200 Phaethon’s glow as it approaches the sun may come from the ‘fizzing’ of sodium scientists suggested in 2021.

see the geminid meteor shower light up the night sky this week on dec. 14

The movement of asteroid 3200 Phaethon imaged on Dec. 25, 2010 (Image credit: Marco Langbroek/Wikimedia Commons)

As the asteroid approaches the sun, its sodium heats up and vaporizes. This has depleted the element at 3200 Phaethon’s surface, which explains why when its debris enters the atmosphere at 79,000 miles per hour (127,000 kilometers per hour) to create the Geminids, these meteors are low in sodium. 

To learn more about this strange hybrid comet/asteroid and the source of the Geminids meteor shower the Demonstration and Experiment of Space Technology for INterplanetary voYage with Phaethon fLyby and dUst Science, or DESTINY+ mission (opens in new tab), will flyby 3200 Phaethon later this decade. 

Though the Geminids will be visible with the naked eye, there are plenty of other wondrous objects in the night sky that require specialized optics. If you need a telescope or a pair of skywatching binoculars, make sure to read our guides for the best binoculars and the best telescopes to view the night sky. For capturing the best pictures of the Geminid meteor shower that you can, don’t miss our recommendations for the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. 

Editor’s Note: If you snap the Geminid meteor shower and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab). 

TECH NEWS RELATED

The new M2 Mac mini might finally change my opinion of Apple hardware

A rare – but welcome – price-conscious move from Apple

View more: The new M2 Mac mini might finally change my opinion of Apple hardware

Ballard announces project with Adani to develop a hydrogen fuel cell truck for mining & transportation

Ballard Power Systems today signed an agreement to launch a pilot project to develop a hydrogen fuel cell electric truck (FCET) for mining logistics and transportation with Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL), part of the diversified Adani portfolio of companies, and Ashok Leyland

View more: Ballard announces project with Adani to develop a hydrogen fuel cell truck for mining & transportation

Britishvolt gigafactory files for administration

Britishvolt’s proposed gigafactory in north east England has filed for administration, after hopes for a last-minute rescue bid failed. The majority of its 232 staff have been made redundant with immediate effect. Britishvolt had planned to build a giant factory to make electric car batteries in Blyth, Northumberland, and ...

View more: Britishvolt gigafactory files for administration

Apple unveils faster MacBook Pros during a rare January launch event: New Mac Minis also go official

Tech giant Apple has introduced its first set of products for the year 2023. The products include faster MacBook Pro laptops and Mac Mini desktops. The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros look the same as the previous MacBook Pros launched in 2021 but have become more powerful as ...

View more: Apple unveils faster MacBook Pros during a rare January launch event: New Mac Minis also go official

Get the TL;DR on 2023 MacBook Pro and Mac mini in this Apple video

Laura Metz, the director of Mac Product Marketing, details the 2023 MacBook Pro in a product-launch video. Screenshot: Apple Those who prefer to get their Apple announcements via video don’t have to feel left out. Although the 2023 MacBook Pro and Mac mini didn’t get a big, glitzy press ...

View more: Get the TL;DR on 2023 MacBook Pro and Mac mini in this Apple video

Best Used Minivans Under $20,000, According to U.S. News

Experts have answers if you’re searching for a high-quality used minivan that’s also affordable. U.S. News & World Report listed its best used minivans for under $20,000 in 2023. We’ve compiled the best options and what makes them so great. Minivans are the perfect alternative to a costly three-row SUV, ...

View more: Best Used Minivans Under $20,000, According to U.S. News

Kuo: 2024 Mac mini to feature similar form factor, M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook models to use 3nm chip tech

Apple just unveiled a new Mac mini with the M2 and M2 Pro processors. While it was first rumored that Apple would release a new iteration with a new design last year, the company decided to keep the same form factor and only improve its hardware. Now, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo ...

View more: Kuo: 2024 Mac mini to feature similar form factor, M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook models to use 3nm chip tech

The New Mac Mini With M2 Is Faster and Cheaper

Apple The Mac Mini is Apple’s least-expensive computer, but it doesn’t get updated too often. Thankfully, Apple has updated it with the newer M2 and M2 Pro, and a lower price tag. The last time Apple released a new Mac Mini was in 2020, when it became one of the ...

View more: The New Mac Mini With M2 Is Faster and Cheaper

Apple Mac Mini (M2): specs, price, and everything we know

Apple discontinues 4th-gen Mac mini, Mac Pro now the only Intel model left

Apple adds keynote-like video to introduce new high-end M2 MacBook Pro and Mac mini models

Apple launches powerful new Mac mini at a lower cost

Apple surprise launches new MacBook Pro and Mac mini - plus M2 Plus and M2 Max

Apple announces M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini starting at $599

Britishvolt UK gigafactory battery plan collapses into administration

Rock Tech Lithium receives early approval to start mining in Guben

MINI Electric: all the reasons why you love it

Oz key to sustainable mining: Polestar

Oz may be key to sustainable mining: Polestar

Mini-vehicle Japan’s best-seller

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News