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Geminids 2022: 10 tips for meteor-watching

Geminids: Very bright, nearly vertical streak in densely starry sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Martha Dean in San Saba County, Texas, captured this photo of a Geminid fireball on December 14, 2020. She wrote: “After the clouds cleared the skies were full of Geminid meteors. A beautiful, chilly night in central Texas.” Thank you, Martha! Watch for Geminids on the morning of December 14, 2022.

Moonlight will hinder the Geminids meteors in 2022

2022’s Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak on the morning of December 14. This year, a bright waning gibbous moon will be above the horizon during the peak time for viewing meteors. So moonlight will compete with Geminid meteors in 2022 most of the night on both December 13 and 14. Read more about 2022’s Geminid meteor shower.

Also, you’ll have a few hours in the mid-evening of December 13 and 14, after Gemini is above the horizon and before the moon rises.

Moon or no moon, the Geminid meteor shower is always worth a look. You never know when you’ll be surprised by a bright fireball. The radiant, which is near the star Castor in Gemini the Twins, rises around 7 p.m. local time (the time on your clock wherever you are), reaching to near overhead around 2 a.m.

While it’s possible to see up to 120 meteors per hour when the radiant is overhead, it’s still exciting to see even just a handful. For your best chance to see the most Geminids, make sure you’re in a dark-sky location. Here are 10 tips to get the most out of the Geminids in 2021.

Available now! 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year! Makes a great gift.

Long, bright, colorful meteor.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Kristian Evar Palac in Lucban, Quezon, Philippines captured this image on December 15, 2020 during the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. Thank you, Kristian!

1. The peak Geminids viewing time is around 2 a.m.

Geminid meteor numbers tend to intensify as evening deepens into late night, with the greatest number of Geminids likely falling an hour or two after midnight, when the meteor shower’s radiant point appears highest in the sky as seen from around the globe. That time holds true no matter your time zone. In 2022, the waning gibbous moon will be up most of the night on the peak morning of December 14. Visit Sunrise Sunset Calendars to find the moonrise and moonset time for your specific location. Be sure to check the moonrise and moonset box.

2. Get away from city lights.

For optimum viewing, find a dark place to observe in the country.

3. Give yourself a wide-open view of the sky.

A farmer’s field? A stretch of country road? A campsite with a clear view in one or more directions? An open sky will increase your chances of seeing some meteors.

4. Watch for Geminids for an hour or more.

The 2022 Geminid meteor shower will be better if you let your eyes adapt to the dark. That can take as long as 20 minutes. Plus, the meteors tend to come in spurts, followed by lulls. Be patient! You’ll see some.

5. Don’t worry about the radiant point.

You don’t need to look in a single direction – or locate the Geminid’s radiant point – to have fun watching the shower. The meteors will appear all over the sky. The radiant point is interesting, though. If you track Geminid meteors backward on the sky’s dome, you’ll find them streaming from this point, within the constellation Gemini the Twins. Hence this shower’s name.

6. Pay attention to the moon.

In 2022, the moon will be in a waning gibbous phase, in front of the constellation Leo the Lion, on the peak morning of December 14. Because you can look in any direction to spot Geminids, you may want to look at areas of the sky away from the moon. Anything in the moon’s vicinity will likely be washed out by its bright light. Another tip for watching in moonlight: place yourself in a moon shadow. Observing from the shadow of a barn, or mountain, even a tree, can help you see more meteors.

7. Think about the Geminids’ parent object.

Most meteors in annual showers originate in comets. But the parent of the Geminid meteor shower is a mysterious body named 3200 Phaethon. This solar system object is termed an Apollo (near-Earth) asteroid, and it might be a dormant comet. This tidbit may not help you watch the shower, but it’s fun to discuss as you wait for the next meteor. Click here for more on weirdly comet-like 3200 Phaethon.

8. Bring along a buddy.

Both of you watch different parts of the sky. If you see one, shout “Meteor!” Let your eyes rove casually in all parts of the sky.

9. No special equipment needed.

Though you may be more comfortable with a reclining lawn chair, blankets and a hot drink.

10. Enjoy nature.

As a wise man once said, meteor watching is a lot like fishing. You go outside. You hope you catch some!

Bottom line: The Geminids make up a strong annual meteor shower that peaks in mid-December. Maximize your viewing time with these tips. In 2022, a waning gibbous moon will illuminate the sky most of the night.

December 13, 2022
Astronomy Essentials

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