December is one of my favorite months. I enjoy the change in the weather and all of the winter festivities and holiday happenings. I especially enjoy the beautiful holiday lights displayed in my neighborhood and around town, but those aren’t the only lights I’ll look for this month. Did you know that one of the most wondrous light displays in the world is happening this week? It’s not a holiday display, it’s a meteor shower! The Geminid meteor shower is occurring December 10th through the 16th, and is expected to peak overnight from the 13th to the early morning hours of the 14th. The Geminid meteors get their name from the constellation of Gemini, which the meteors seem to radiate from as they traverse the night sky. There is a new moon on the 13th which should provide dark skies to easily see the meteors in locations with clear weather.
Unfortunately for the Bay Area there is a storm moving in and visibility might be hindered or non-existent in some areas. If the skies do clear you should be able to see the Geminid meteors from many locations. If the lights are too bright where you are try taking a drive away from the city glare. The meteors should be visible Thursday night starting around 9 or 10 pm, but the best time to view the meteors is very late, between midnight and 2 am. If the skies are clear you can expect to see approximately 80 to 120 meteors per hour during peak time. Take a look at this time-lapse video of the Geminid meteors from a previous year to get an idea of what you might see.
If it’s too cloudy outside or if you would prefer to be warm while watching the Geminid meteors, you can watch them from the comfort of your own home! NASA will be live streaming the meteor shower and featuring a live chat module starting at 8 pm PST on Thursday, December 13th. You can find more information here. If the skies are clear and you decide to brave the winter weather to view the meteor shower outside, be sure to keep warm!