The most active meteor shower of the year is upon us! Yes, that's right, it will be more active than the Perseids! Albeit, not by much.
The Geminid Meteor Shower is already very active. In fact, the night before the peak night is nearly as active as the peak night. The peak of the shower will be Thursday night into Friday morning
The Geminid Meteor Shower is very active through the entire night. The peak lasts a full 24 hours, so the entire world gets to enjoy it!
To find the Geminids, don't worry so much about the exact location of the radiant. All you need to know is the radiant will be overhead most of the night. This means meteors will be active through the night. The best way to see the most meteors is simply to see as much of the sky as possible. The easiest way to do this is to lie flat on your back, in a lounge/lawn chair for example. Once your eyes adjust DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR PHONE, or any other source of light.
A quote from the International Meteor Organization, the premier authority on meteor shower predictions "this is a splendid stream of often bright, medium-speed meteors, a rewarding event for all observers, whatever method they employ."
The big problem with the Geminids is the fact they occur in December. It is a stormy time of year across the Northern Hemisphere. So, clouds are an issue. Let's take a look at the expected sky conditions:
This shower is visible worldwide. But, the rates are not as great across the Southern Hemisphere. But, we will take a look at global sky cover for the peak.
The meteor shower is triggered by an interesting object: 3200 Phaethon is a comet/asteroid hybrid. It orbits the sun every 550+ days. This object puts out a fresh batch of debris every other year. This makes the Geminid Meteor Shower very consistent. Some argue it is actually increasing in intensity.
Orbit path of 3200 Phaethon. Image courtesy of earthsky.org. Read their article on the 2018 Geminids here.
In 2017, 3200 Phaethon passed close to Earth just after the peak night of the shower. This could mean that the 2018 shower will be enhanced!
Happy meteor hunting! Thanks for reading. Just look up; you never know what you will see.