The final major meteor shower of 2012, the Geminid meteor shower, will peak overnight on Thursday, Dec. 13, into Friday morning. If you are willing to stay up late – or get up early – you're in for a show.
NASA reports that the Geminids is a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sightings in the 1830s, with rates of about 20 per hour. Over time the rate of visible meteors has increased; now viewers can expect to see 80 to 120 meteors per hour at its peak.
Now's your chance to catch a shooting star! Well, not quite, but Earthsky.org advises viewers to watch the Geminids starting at 9 or 10 p.m. on Thursday.
The peak will likely be between 1 to 3 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 14. That’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky, as seen around the world.
"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports. "Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14."
The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin – its outer covering of ice – after too many close encounters with the sun.
Tips for watching from Earthsky.org:
You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: a sandy beach, your back yard or even the hood of your car.
Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way.
So, if you care to join thousands across the nation in viewing the shower, park yourself at a good viewing spot.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.
Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time — and hope.