The final major meteor shower of every year (unless one surprises us!) is always the December Geminid shower, often producing 50 or more meteors per hour. It is a beloved shower, because, as a general rule, it’s either the August Perseids or the December Geminids that give us the most prolific display of the year. In 2012, the Geminids were amazing, and many people good displays on the nights around the shower and counted more than 50 meteors per hour at the peak. In 2013, you will to be aware of the moon to get the most out of the Geminid meteor, although these meteors tend to be bright enough to withstand some moonlight.
When should you watch for Geminid meteors in 2013? The peak of the Geminid shower this year should be the night of December 13-14. But the night before – December 12-13 – might feature a good display of meteors as well. It’s always safest, of course, to watch on the first night, unless you are absolutely convinced the second will be cloud-free.
The best time of night for the Geminids is typically around 2 a.m. local time – the time on your clock, no matter where in the world you are – on these nights. That’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky, as seen around the world.
In 2013, there will be a waxing gibbous moon in the night sky on the night’s of the peak of the Geminid shower. The Geminids are bright! They can withstand some moonlight. But if you want a moonless sky, you can also wait until moonset in the hours before dawn on December 13 and 14. Click here for a sunrise/set calendar and check the box for moonrise/set times.
Moonlight a major factor in Geminid shower in 2013. The December Geminids are a particularly reliable and prolific shower, one of the finest of the year. In a year when moonlight doesn’t obscure the viewing, you can easily see 50 or more meteors per hour on the peak night of the Geminid shower. However, the bright waxing gibbous moon in 2013 is sure to dampen this year’s display.
But don’t let the moonlight discourage you. A good percentage of these yellow-colored Geminid meteors are quite bright, and may well overcome the moonlit skies.
Of course, you can always work around the moon. The moon will set before dawn on December 13 and 14, creating a window of darkness for watching the Geminid shower between moonset and dawn. Keep in mind that the moon will set about an hour earlier on December 13 than it will on December 14. Click here for custom sunrise/set calendar. Check boxes for moonrise/set times..
Before the moon sets, however, the moon will be sitting low in the west. If possible, find a hedgerow of trees, a barn or some such thing to block out the moon. Sit in a moon shadow but at the same time, find an expansive view of sky. Or simply look away from the moon. The key to watching meteors is to find an open sky, away from pesky artificial lights. Lie down in comfort, perhaps snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag, and look upward.
Which direction do I look to see the Geminid meteor shower? Don’t worry about looking in any particular direction. Just find a place with a wide-open view of the night sky, recline comfortably, and gaze at as wide an area of sky as possible.
Sometimes friends like to watch together, with lawn chairs facing different directions. When one sees a meteor, he or she can cry out “meteor!” to tell the others.
What about the meteor shower’s radiant point? Yes, it’s true that meteors in annual showers to appear to radiate from a single point in the sky. But the meteors radiate out from that point in all directions, and they often don’t become visible until they are some distance from their radiant point. Thus you will see meteors in all parts of the sky, once the radiant point is well above for the horizon.
For the December Geminids, the radiant is up in the evening hours and highest in the sky around 2 a.m.
Bottom line: The next meteor shower is the Geminid shower, coming up on the nights of December 12-13 and 13-14. Info here includes tips on how to watch, how to avoid the moon during the 2013 Geminid shower, and how to find Geminid’s radiant point.