Stargazers are in for a particularly dazzling treat this weekend with the annual Geminid meteor shower expected to peak Sunday night and into the wee hours Monday.
“It’s worth braving the cold during this shower’s peak. The Geminids offer the best display of ‘shooting stars’ all year,” Diana Hannikainen, observing editor at Sky & Telescope stated.
According to researchers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, the shower occurs as Earth plows through the debris trail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon, meaning as many as 100 meteors per hour could be visible during the shower’s height.
The 2020 viewing is expected to be especially captivating because its peak – sometime between 8 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday in the Northern Hemisphere – will coincide with a nearly new moon, meaning less moonlight interfering with the visibility of fainter meteors, NASA reported.
“If you’ve got a clear, dark sky with no light pollution, you might see a meteor streak across the sky every minute or two from 10 p.m. until dawn on the night of the peak,” Hannikainen stated.
The publication also recommended stargazers optimize meteor viewing by allowing at least 20 minutes after going outside for their eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Meanwhile, NASA recommended Northern Hemisphere meteor watchers find a safe location removed from bright city lights, lie flat on the ground with their feet pointing south, look up and enjoy.
The Geminids shower, which began Dec. 4, will remain active through Dec. 17.