Dec 8, 2020 - Science

The Geminids are coming

A 2017 Geminid meteor shower composite.

A 2017 Geminid meteor shower composite. Photo: VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

This weekend, be sure to look up to catch the Geminid meteor shower, one of the best of the year.

The big picture: The Geminid meteor shower hits its peak each year in mid-December as Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

  • The shower is expected to be particularly good this year, with very little moonlight interfering with the dark skies needed to spot the streaking shooting stars.

How it works: NASA predicts that the shower will peak overnight on Dec. 13 into the wee hours of Dec. 14.

  • You can expect to see meteors all night from the Northern Hemisphere and starting after midnight in the Southern Hemisphere, assuming you have reasonably dark and clear skies above you.
  • "For the best viewing, find a safe location away from bright city lights, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointing south and look up," NASA said in a skywatching video. "Meteors can appear in any part of the sky, though they'll appear to radiate from near the constellation Gemini."
  • It takes about 30 minutes for eyes to adjust to the dark, so give yourself time, and don't ruin your night vision by looking at a bright phone screen.

What's next: On Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn are going to meet up in the night sky thanks to a lucky planetary alignment, appearing closer than they have in about 20 years.

  • The two planets will be visible in the same field of view through binoculars or a telescope, according to NASA.
  • "This is the 'greatest' great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn for the next 60 years, with the two planets not appearing this close in the sky until 2080," NASA said.
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