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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 5, 2021 - Science

White House lays out new planetary protection guidelines against human contamination

Mars as seen by the Curiosity rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The White House laid out a plan last week for updating long-held rules around how to protect the Moon, Mars and other bodies from human contamination.

Why it matters: If a space agency or private company is looking for life on Mars or another deep space object, it's key to be sure any microbes detected are actually native and didn't hitch a ride from Earth.

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.

Cities' pandemic struggle to balance homelessness and public safety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Addressing homelessness has taken on new urgency in cities across the country over the past year, as officials grapple with a growing unhoused population and the need to preserve public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s led to tension when cities move in to clear encampments — often for health and safety reasons — causing some to rethink the role of law enforcement when interacting with people experiencing homelessness.

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