One of the best sky shows of the year is on the way, and our weather timing couldn't be better! The Geminid meteor shower peaks tomorrow night and Friday night. Astronomers say the number of meteors streaking across the sky will range from the dozens to the hundreds per hour. Typically at this time of year, the weather around here is pretty active, and that means lots of clouds, little opporunity to see the show. But the forecast for tomorrow (Thursday) night is for clear skies, and for Friday, partly cloudy skies. Both nights should provide great viewing. Additionally, because we're in a new moon phase, the sky will be wonderfully dark.
The Geminids swing by our planet at this time each year, but space scientists remain puzzled about their origin. Most meteor showers are result of icy comets shedding particles as their orbits take them closer to our sun. But astronmers say the Geminids are caused by a space rock, perhaps an asteroid, called 3200 Phaeton. Whatever the origin, the annual spectacle has the potential for being a real treat this year.
For best viewing, find as dark a spot as possible, away from ambient light. There is no "best" spot in the sky to see the show; the meteors will be streaking across the sky from all angles, so pick a spot in the sky and start watching. Another good thing to note about the Geminids: because the radiant point of the meteor shower moves above the eastern horizon about 7 p.m., you'll be able to enjoy the show without having to be up late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Enjoy!