Geminid Meteor Shower 2018

Geminid Meteor Shower 2018

07/12/2018Written by Tamela Maciel

In 2018, the Geminids peak on the 13th and 14th December, with up to 120 meteors an hour.

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Geminids

Geminids
Credit: Juan Carlos Casado, Starry Earth

This week, the Geminids peak on the 13-14 December between midnight and dawn. This king of the meteor showers can produce up to 120 meteors an hour on a clear, dark night. This year the Moon will set before midnight, leaving excellent viewing.

The Geminids are caused by the Earth passing through the debris left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Exactly how this rocky asteroid produces enough debris to create the Geminids is still a mystery. Most meteor showers are caused by debris shed by the tails of comets, but asteroid 3200 Phaethon doesn’t have a tail nor appear to shed much debris, even when it’s close to the Sun.

Nevertheless the debris is there and as it hits Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, it heats up and disintegrates in flashes of light that we call meteors.

The Geminids are normally the most intense meteor shower of the year, producing up to 120 meteors an hour.

This year the first quarter moon will set shortly before midnight leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent early morning show if the sky is clear. Best viewing will be 13-14 December between midnight and dawn.

How to Watch

Adapted from Stellarium

Adapted from Stellarium

The Geminids are named after the constellation Gemini as this is the direction from which they appear to originate.  While the meteors appear to originate from Gemini, they are best seen 30 degrees away from origin, so be sure to keep careful watch across the whole sky.

To view the Geminids from the UK, head outside anytime between midnight and dawn.

Look up, keep an eye on the whole sky, and find a location as far from city lights as you can.

The Geminids are active between 7-17 December. So if it’s cloudy on the 13-14th, you can always try again on a nearby day.

Meteor Infographic

Meteor Infographic
Credit: National Space Centre

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared to watch the Geminids!

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2018 include:

Ursids

Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: 21-22 Dec 2018
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour
Notes: Strong moonlight may interfere this year.

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