A spectacular meteor shower called Geminids, famous for its multicoloured streaks of light, will illuminate the night sky this week. The celestial display is expected to be at its best from this Thursday evening (December 14) and will be visible until the early morning of Friday (December 15).
The name Geminids comes from Gemini, the constellation from which these meteors appear to emerge, and were first seen in 1862. This impressive display is also known as a meteor storm due to its intensity and if skies are clear, viewers may spot 100 to 120 meteors per hour – with most expected at around 7.30pm.
According to NASA, it is seen as one of the year’s ‘best and most reliable annual meteor showers’. As the moon is entering a new phase, the dark skies will make it easier for people to see the meteors – it’s like it knew!
Every year the Earth goes once around the sun, meaning that it takes the same trajectory through the same spot every year. As it passes through debris left behind by the asteroid Phaethon the Earth’s atmosphere burns the debris up and we see this on Earth as meteors.
You won’t need to look in any particular direction because the meteors will appear across the sky and they can be quite colourful. As the meteors burn they can glow white, blue, red and green due to the presence of metals like sodium and calcium. These metals also give fireworks their colour.
Occasionally, one of the meteors will explode into a fireball, visible from Earth but most will streak by at 22 miles per second. Although astronomers first observed the Geminids meteor shower in 1862, the shower itself is intensifying, meaning that over the years we are seeing more and more meteors per hour than ever before.
So, find your nearest viewing spot (even your garden) and set up a chair ready for tomorrow night.