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Get ready for the Geminid Meteor Shower! The Geminids peak on the night of December 13, 2023. Find out when to watch for these famous shooting stars!
When Is the Geminid Meteor Shower?
The Geminids occur every year from about November 19 to December 16, peaking the night of December 13 into the morning of December 14.
This is the shower’s “maximum”—when the most meteors fall per hour. Given that the Geminid meteor shower is the most active shower of the year, expect to see an average of 75 meteors per hour during the Geminids’ peak! The show typically starts as early as 9 P.M., peaks around 2 A.M., and lasts into the morning hours of the next day.
Good news! The glare of the Moon will not interfere with Geminds in 2023! With the new Moon on the 12th of December, the Moon will be a young waxing crescent. See your local Moon phase calendar.
Dark skies with no moon means you’ll see the most showing stars!
What Is the Geminid Meteor Shower?
The Geminid meteor shower is one of the year’s most active and reliable meteor showers! They streak through the sky every minute or two all night.
It is unique because the meteors are visible all night long, since the constellation Gemini arises just an hour or two after nightfall. Most meteor showers require waiting until midnight or pre-dawn for the best viewing.
The constellation Gemini is the radiant of the Geminid meteor shower, meaning it is its point of origin. The Geminid meteors will appear to fall away from the constellation Gemini.
Geminid meteors can be seen all night long because Gemini rises so early, though Gemini is at its highest point (offering optimal viewing) around 2 A.M. However, the meteor shower is usually in full swing by 9 P.M because the sun sets so early in December.
What Is a Meteor?
Meteors occur when the Earth rushes through a stream of dust and debris left behind by a passing comet. When the bits strike the Earth’s upper atmosphere, friction with the air causes each particle to heat and burn up. We see the result as a meteor. Learn more about meteor showers.
Interestingly, Geminid meteors didn’t seem to be associated with a comet until recently. The Geminid meteor shower was thought to be caused by asteroid 3200 Phaethon, first detected by NASA in 1983. The odd part of this is that asteroids don’t disintegrate like comets do to produce meteor showers. Phaethon has, therefore, been reclassified as an extinct comet that has lost its outer covering. This helps explain why the Geminids are so bright. They’re little pieces of mostly rocky material that take longer to burn up as they fall into the atmosphere, whereas the softer, icier debris from comets causes most meteor showers.
The Geminid meteors also move more slowly than others, such as the Perseids. The decrease in speed makes viewing much more effortless. The Geminid meteor shower is also relatively new. All other major meteor showers have been observed for centuries, but the Geminids were first observed in 1862 in Manchester, England. The Geminid meteor shower was initially very modest but now delivers one to two meteors a minute.
Viewing Tips for the Geminid Meteor Shower
Geminids offer one of the best meteor showers of the year, and they are perfect for kids who can’t keep their eyes open until midnight, when other meteor showers begin. For those who like to go to bed early, the meteor shower should start around 9 P.M. The viewing will be better as the night goes on—peaking around 2 A.M.—so maybe it’ll captivate you enough to become a temporary night owl!
Unfortunately, due to the December timing, the Geminids are sometimes clouded out by a snowstorm or overcast skies. Keep your fingers crossed that the skies stay clear, and check our 5-day weather forecast to plan ahead.
As with any meteor shower, it is best to find a place far away from man-made lights. This can be tough in December when you want to stay close to a warm shelter, so try to find a friend who lives in the country. Obviously, you’ll need to bundle up for the winter weather, but we recommend making yourself some hot chocolate and cuddling up for a cheap but spectacular date. Try getting into sleeping bags on a reclining chair to stay extra cozy.
The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but you’ll have the best luck by gazing at whatever part of the sky is darkest at your location. Though it might be tempting, avoid using binoculars or a telescope. It is better to look at the whole sky than a tiny part, and your eyes will automatically move toward any motion up above. Avoid looking at your cell phone or other lights during the meteor shower, as this will hurt your night vision.
As mentioned above, the shower is best when the Moon is absent. In years when there’s moonshine, try to look towards the part of the sky furthest from the Moon.
Fingers crossed that the Geminid meteor shower isn’t a snow day this year! Be sure to tell us about your meteor shower experience below.