If spending time in the cold, dark outdoors in the middle of December isn't exactly what you had in mind this holiday season, you don't have to re-think your options. To see the ultimate holiday light show from the comfort of your own home, check out the Geminid meteor shower online on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
One of the year's top meteor showers, the Geminids will peak around 10 p.m. local time with rates as high as one or two meteors per minute. However, the show will start around 7 p.m. local time, according to the Sky & Telescope magazine.
If you can't get outside (or if skies are gloomy), check it out at 6 p.m. EST via a livestream courtesy of Space.com and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. The Virtual Telescope Project will also host a webcast here showing live views from Italy, starting at 5 p.m. EDT on Dec. 13, and from Arizona, starting at 5 a.m. GMT on Dec. 14.
The Geminids are usually "one of the two best meteor showers of the year," Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope, said in a statement. "Sometimes, they're more impressive than the better-known Perseids of August."
For the adventurous ones who wish to view the Geminids from the wild outdoors, look to the darkest spot in the sky. The meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, which is in between the constellations Taurus and Cancer — but if you're not an astronomy whiz, there's no need to look directly at Gemini to see the meteors.
"Don't fixate on looking toward Gemini," Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope, said in the statement. "Geminids can appear anywhere in the sky, so the best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, which is probably straight up."
To best see the meteors, find an area as far away as possible from artificial lights and give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to the darkness. Bring your favorite hot cocoa and bundle up with plenty of layers and blankets in the cold December temperatures.
"Go out late in the evening, lie back in a reclining lawn chair, and gaze up into the stars," MacRobert said. "Be patient."
Sometimes, the light of the moon can be too bright and wash out the appearance of the meteor showers. However, this year the moon is a waning crescent and won't rise until early morning, around 3 a.m.0comments
Meteor showers like the Geminids occur when the Earth plows into a stream of debris in space left behind by a comet or asteroid. The debris stream's location in space can alter from year-to-year depending on factors like the influence of Jupiter's gravity, which contributes to the intensity of the shower.
Photo Credit: NASA / Kenneth Brandon