Geminid meteor shower, one of the best displays of “shooting stars” and a close space snowball flyby, could make for some epic nights of skywatching this week.

The Geminid meteor shower is one of the most spectacular nighttime sky shows of the year. When debris from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon burns up in the night sky, it creates bright, long-lasting streaks across the sky. It’s something to worth going outside for on a cold winter night, and is worthy of the Google Doodle posted Thursday to celebrate it.

The peak of the meteor shower begins Thursday night, and lasts through Friday night. You may be able to one or two meteors per minute, if you have access to a dark-enough sky. This meteor shower is perhaps only rivaled by the Perseid meteor shower in August in the number of meteors you can see per night, according to Vox.

“With the moon setting just before midnight, conditions should be perfect for a classic Geminids meteor shower this year,” Slooh astronomer Paul Cox said in a statement.

This remarkable video shot by Joe Lawton of Gerald, Missouri, shows a Geminid flaming out with Wirtanen in the background

“Phaethon orbits the sun every 17 months or so, leaving a trail of debris behind it,” Cox explains. “When Earth passes through the trail, the sand-grain-sized meteoroids are vaporized in our atmosphere as spectacular meteors.”, reported by CNET.

The Geminids are up there with the Perseids of August in terms of producing a nice quantity of fireballs and other bright streaks across the sky. You can expect to catch as many as 100 to 150 per hour with clear skies and limited light pollution.

Geminid glam shots: Meteor magic from Japan, 2015. (Photo:Akira Nishibori/Flickr)
Geminid glam shots: Meteor magic from Japan, 2015. (Photo:Akira Nishibori/Flickr)

How to watch

If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights that will obstruct your view. If you’re able to find an area unaffected by light pollution, meteors could be visible every couple of minutes from 10 p.m. until dawn, according to CNN.

Find an open area with a wide view of the sky, and don’t forget to bundle up. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look straight up. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness — without looking at your phone — so meteors are easier to spot.

Meteors streak across the night sky over the Galenki RT-70 radio telescope that's part of the Titov Main Space Test Centre in Russia's far east
Meteors streak across the night sky over the Galenki RT-70 radio telescope that’s part of the Titov Main Space Test Centre in Russia’s far east. (Photo: Yuri Smityuk/ITAR-TASS photo/Corbis)

While you’re keeping an eye out for the meteor shower, you might see a small, foggy green patch in the sky, NASA said. That will be Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which is making its closest approach to Earth — within 7 million miles — for the next 20 years. And it will be visible to the naked eye. The comet is expected to come closest to Earth and peak Sunday.

By TheBL staff

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