Shooting Stars Will Light Up the Sky Like Celestial Christmas Lights This December

Travel + Leisure logo

The year’s astronomical grand finale is finally upon us. One of the most dazzling displays in the sky, the Geminid meteor shower will peak in mid-December, gracing the heavens with anywhere from 50 to 120 bright shooting stars per hour. Some excellent news for 2020’s shower: We’ll have incredibly dark skies with very little light pollution from the moon, meaning you can expect a particularly vibrant show this year. Here’s everything you need to know about the Geminid meteor shower.

What is the Geminid meteor shower?

One of the few meteor showers to emanate from a celestial body other than a comet, the Geminids occur each December when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by the mysterious asteroid-like object 3200 Phaethon. It’s one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year, with up to 120 meteors per hour under optimal viewing conditions (i.e. dark, moonless skies). As a bonus, many of these shooting stars are bright and relatively slow-moving, so they’re easy to spot, as long as you’re away from city lights.

The Geminids are named for the constellation Gemini, which is the radiant point of the meteor shower. All of the shooting stars will seem to originate from this point and move outward. Northern Hemisphere stargazers will get a more prolific display of shooting stars, as the constellation moves far higher in the sky up north than it does in the Southern Hemisphere.

Video: Don’t miss 2 planet’s ‘Great Conjunction,’ rare astronomical event on winter solstice (USA TODAY)

  • logo

    Understanding the NBA's unconventional 2020-21 season

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a close up of a rock

    Monolith found in Utah's Red Rock country vanishes without a trace

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a steam train on a track with smoke coming out of it

    American flag on Flag Rock in Norton, Virginia flies proudly in front of snowy mountain

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • The current US workforce vs. what it could look like in the future

    The current US workforce vs. what it could look like in the future

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • Family of gorillas are having the best time monkeying around during playtime

    Family of gorillas are having the best time monkeying around during playtime

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a man standing in front of a computer

    'We have healthy people that die': What doctors want us to know about COVID-19

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a close up of sunglasses

    St. Louis doctor simulates what struggling COVID-19 patients see before they die

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a man wearing a helmet and holding a sign

    NFL power rankings 13.0: The Packers may be the best team in the NFC

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • Ryan Reynolds wearing a suit and tie

    Here's why Ryan Reynolds doesn't want a street named after him in Vancouver, Canada

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a bear that is sitting on a rock

    London Zoo's meerkats get mailbox to send their Christmas letters to Santa

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • The record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has officially come to an end

    The record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has officially come to an end

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a group of people wearing costumes

    Homecoming king and queen wed 28 years later

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a view of a snow covered field

    Winter phenomenon coats city with layers of ice

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a large building

    Georgia will decide who controls the Senate in runoffs

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • Last minute shopping tips for Cyber Monday

    Last minute shopping tips for Cyber Monday

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • a little boy standing in front of a computer

    Three-year-old's designer-filled wardrobe is worth $10,000

    USA TODAY Logo

    USA TODAY

  • logo
    Understanding the NBA's unconventional 2020-21 season
    SportsPulse: This isn't your grandparent's NBA. Following a short layoff from the previous season, the league has devised a unique plan for 2020-21, but will it go off without a hitch?

    USA TODAY Logo
    USA TODAY

  • a close up of a rock
    Monolith found in Utah's Red Rock country vanishes without a trace
    A three-sided metal column discovered embedded in Utah's remote Red Rock Country has reportedly vanished without a trace.

    USA TODAY Logo
    USA TODAY

  • a steam train on a track with smoke coming out of it
    American flag on Flag Rock in Norton, Virginia flies proudly in front of snowy mountain
    An American flag on Flag Rock flies proudly in the wind with a snow-covered mountain backdrop in Norton, Virginia.

    USA TODAY Logo
    USA TODAY

UP NEXT

When is the Geminid meteor shower?

The Geminids happen each year between Dec. 4 and 17; in 2020, peak activity will occur on the evening of Dec. 13 into the morning of Dec. 14. While you’ll see the most shooting stars around 2 a.m., when the Geminids’ radiant point is highest in the sky, viewers who aren’t night owls can head out around 9 p.m. for a chance to see some meteors, though there might only be a handful each hour. 

How can I see the Geminid meteor shower?

Just look up! Given how prolific the Geminids are, it’s pretty easy to spot the meteors. Plus, this year, the meteor shower’s peak falls the night before the new moon, so you don’t have to worry about moonlight drowning out the shooting stars.

Overall, the most important tip for stargazing is to get away from light pollution. As long as you’re in a super-dark area with clear skies, you’ll likely be able to catch the show. Give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust to the darkness for the best chance to see some shooting stars.

When is the next meteor shower?

Next on the calendar is the Ursid meteor shower, which runs from Dec. 17 to 26, with a peak on the night of Dec. 22 this year. Disclaimer: This is a relatively quiet meteor shower compared to the spectacle of the Geminids, with only five to 10 shooting stars expected per hour.

Source: Read Full Article