The best meteor shower of the year — the Geminids — arrives this week. Here’s how to see them.
The shower peaks in the early morning hours Thursday and Friday, as Earth crosses the debris trail of the comet 3200 Phaethon.
More than 50 meteors per hour will be visible at that time, according to EarthSky.org.
The moon won’t be outshining many of them, setting at about 10:30 Thursday night and 11:30 Friday. None of the planets will be visible, either, until Venus rises about 5 a.m.
The meteors are known as the Geminids because they appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini.
Unfortunately, the weather may not cooperate in Maryland for the Geminids’ peak this year. Some clouds and possibly some snow flurries are forecast Wednesday night into Thursday. Mostly cloudy conditions and rain are likely Thursday night into Friday.
The early morning hours are considered best because that is when Gemini, and its bright stars Castor and Pollux, is highest in the sky. But some meteors will be visible even in the evening hours, by about 9 p.m., and for a few days before the shower’s peak.
“These meteors are bright enough so that, even with the Moon in the evening sky, some should be visible,” said Herman Heyn, Baltimore’s retired “Streetcorner Astronomer.”
“Just keep your back to the Moon. Many of the early evening ones are ‘earthgrazers,’” Heyn said — “low, bright, slow moving fireballs which emanate from the horizon.”