If you had to pick one night for watching the 2018 Geminid meteor shower, it’d probably be December 13 (morning of December 14). The nights before and after should be good as well. On a dark, moonless night, the Geminids are known to produce 50 meteors per hour in the wee hours after midnight. The moon is in a waxing crescent phase for this year’s shower, so the moon sets relatively early in the evening. That means a dark sky for this year’s Geminid shower. You’ll find EarthSky’s top 10 tips for watching this shower below.
1. Watch late night to dawn. Geminid meteors numbers tend to intensify as evening deepens into late night, with greatest numbers 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.
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 an hour or more. The 2018 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 backwards 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. Watch for Mars and Venus. In December 2018, the red planet Mars lights up the evening sky till around midnight, and the dazzling planet Venus adorns the the predawn/dawn sky. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot Mercury, the solar system’s innermost planet, beneath Venus as darkness ebbs into dawn. See the charts below.
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. How does that help you watch the shower? It doesn’t. But it’s fun to contemplate on a dark night under the stars.
8. Bring along a buddy. Both of you watch different parts of the sky. If one of you sees one, shout out “meteor!” Again, don’t worry about which direction to look. Just let your eyes rove casually in all parts of the sky.
Bottom line: We anticipate on 2018 being a good year for the Geminid meteor shower! Here are 10 tips for watching the shower.