Each year like clockwork the Geminids grace the night skies, shooting meteors of varying colours and sizes into the Earth’s atmosphere. The source of these meteors is the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which is a staggering three miles across. Tonight these meteors peak, meaning there will be hundreds that shoot across the dark sky.
Pictures from previous years show the meteors in staggering detail, brightening the night sky with a sudden streak of light.
The rock comet 3200 Phaethon is a rare blue asteroid which behaves like a comet.
These meteors light up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, as a massive trail of dusty debris is shed by the Phaethon.
The debris is about the size of sand grains or peas each time it passes the Sun.
The particles cause the meteor shower when they plunge into the Earth’s atmosphere at 22 miles per second, and begin to burn.
The best time to view the shower is at 2am when meteor rates can reach up to 100 per hour but could be more like about 30 to 40 per hour depending on the lighting conditions.
Heading to an area with as low light pollution as possible will give you the best chance of spotting the meteors.
Bill Cook, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office recommends following the tips listed below for the best views possible:
1) Find the darkest site you can
2) Give your eyes 30 to 45 minutes to adjust to the dark (do not look at your bright cell phone screen, as that will mess up night vision)
3) Lie on your back looking straight up so as to take in as much sky as possible
The Geminids were first reported in 1862 and have been recognised as an annual phenomenon since then.
Stunning images show the bright meteors dancing through the sky, leaving a trail of light behind them.
The Geminids are known as the most reliable meteor showers, for their clockwork-like appearance in the sky, seen in early to mid-December.
During the last Gemini meteor shower in 2017, the 3200 Phaethon was incredibly close to the Sun, passing within 6.4 million miles.
However this year, Phaethon is much further away, it is currently 346.9 million miles from the Sun and 228.7 million miles from Earth.