One of the year’s stargazing highlights — the Geminid meteor shower — will be peaking soon. In today’s article, we’ll explain the Geminids features, tell you about the observational conditions in 2023, and provide some tips for viewing these bright meteors. Let’s get started!
How to see the Geminids in 2023?
On the peak night of December 13–14 you can see up to 150 meteors per hour if the sky is clear. This year’s show will be even greater than usual, as the Geminids peak just one day after the New Moon, creating ideal viewing conditions.
Start watching after midnight, no matter where you are on the Earth. The Geminids appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, near the bright star Castor. But you don’t have to look straight at the constellation Gemini — in fact, it’s better to look a little to the side to see the meteors with longer tails.
The Geminids activity will increase until 2 a.m. local time. Around this time, the radiant lies highest in the sky, and the Geminids’ activity will be at their strongest. As the radiant begins to set, rates will decrease until the bright sky at dawn obscures all the activity.
Where is the Geminid meteor shower visible?
Under conditions of dark, clear skies, the Geminids are visible from anywhere on Earth, but observers in the Northern Hemisphere will have a better view. Those who watch the meteor shower from the Southern Hemisphere will witness fewer Geminids since the radiant point doesn’t climb very high there.
Tips for observing the Geminids
First off, find a place away from the city lights. This is the main rule that helps you to catch more meteors. Remember that you don’t need any special equipment unless it’s a thermos with hot coffee or tea and a blanket to keep you warm. As soon as your eyes adapt to the darkness, they’ll become your perfect observational tool.
Check the weather forecast and the Moon phase. In 2023, the Geminids peak the day after the New Moon, which is perfect for observation. However, if the sky isn’t clear on the night of December 13–14, it’s better to choose another day near the peak, but be ready that you’ll see fewer meteors.
Learn when the meteor shower’s radiant is highest in the sky. It’s the best time to observe the meteor shower. You can find it out in the Sky Tonight app. Type “Geminids” in the search bar, tap on the matching result, and go to the “Events” tab. You’ll see the “Visible Passes” section — the time in the middle indicates when the radiant is highest in the sky.
Let your eyes adjust to the dark. The astronomy app Sky Tonight has a night mode — the soft red theme will help you preserve night vision when stargazing.
What is the Geminid meteor shower?
The Geminid meteor shower is one of the last major meteor showers of the year and one of the most prolific ones. The meteor shower is active from December 4 to December 17 and reaches its peak on December 14. The Geminid meteors are very bright, long-tailed, and have a wide variety of colors: mostly white, some yellow, and a few red, blue, and green. One of the reasons for this multicolored appearance is that meteoroids of this stream contain traces of metals like sodium and calcium. The very same effect is used to make fireworks colorful.
This meteor shower is one of a kind due to its multicolored appearance and because it’s the only major meteor shower that doesn’t originate from a comet. The Geminids are debris left by asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This asteroid is a giant space rock about 6 km in diameter, named after the Greek myth of Phaethon, son of the Sun god Helios. 3200 Phaethon’s orbit is highly elongated, reminiscent of some comets. Phaethon completes an orbit every 1.4 years and leaves behind a trail of debris. However, it doesn’t have a tail of dust or gas typical for comets — this is why it’s not considered a comet.
Note, that not all meteors you’ll see the following nights are members of the Geminid stream. Some of them can be random sporadic meteors, others belong to much weaker meteor showers such as Monocerotids, Comae Berenicids, etc. You can read more about the other December meteor showers in our dedicated article.
The Geminids 2023: Conclusion
The Geminids are the last prolific meteor shower of the year. They produce up to 150 meteors per hour during their peak night of December 13–14. This year is perfect for observing the meteor shower, as it will peak on a moonless sky one day after the New Moon. Don’t miss this celestial spectacle! Find out the best time to observe the meteor shower in your location with the stargazing app Sky Tonight and enjoy the meteor hunt!
Text Credit: Vito Technology, Inc.