If you had to pick one night for watching the 2017 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 50-120 meteors per hour, or nearly 1-2 meteors per minute. This year, with the Geminids’ parent object – 3200 Phaethon – nearby, you might see more. Plus, the moon is in a waning crescent phase for this year’s shower; it won’t interfere, and it’ll be passing some predawn planets. 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 hold 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 2017 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 the moon and planets before dawn. In 2017, the waning crescent moon will be sweeping past the planets Jupiter and Mars in the east before sunup, on the nights around the shower’s peak. See the chart 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 2017 being a good year for the Geminid meteor shower! Here are 10 tips for watching the shower.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.