Stargazers are in for yet another celestial treat as shooting stars are set to rain down for a spectacular meteor shower later on this month.
The stellar display takes place every year in December and is considered to be one of the best to observe.
When is the Geminid meteor shower?
The Geminid meteor shower is one of the brightest and most intense astronomical events of the year.
Starting around the second week of December, the shower will last until December 16. But will peak on the night of December 13 into the early hours of December 14.
RELATED ARTICLES: Winter 2017: Today is the first day of the new season – or is it?
Geminid meteors are usually few and far between in the early evening, but they tend to intensify from 10pm, with the best views between 2am and 3am.
Luckily for Brits the meteors favour the Northern Hemisphere, but they can still be visible in the Southern Hemisphere.
How to watch the Geminid meteor shower:
The Geminids are a particularly reliable and plentiful shower and is often the highlight of the lunar calendar.
This year, the light from a waning crescent moon should make the meteors easy to see, providing skies are clear.
Avid stargazers should consider using a sleeping bag or a reclining chair to admire the shower comfortably outside – just remember to wrap up warm and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for at least 20 minutes.
A dark room with a window that offers a good view of the sky will do just fine too.
Locations that are as far away as possible from any interfering artificial lights are advised to be able to see the shooting stars clearly.
High-tech cameras and telescopes won’t be needed to spot the meteors, though these will still of course enhance the view.
Once you’ve settled on a spot take in as much of the sky as possible and they should start to appear.
Remember meteors often come in spurts interspersed with lulls.
Be sure to keep an eye on our website nearer the time to find out whether clear skies will help you to see it.
What causes the Geminid meteor shower?
The shower takes place every December as our planet passes through a trail of debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.
As the dust and debris from the asteroid travel through the upper atmosphere of Earth they burn out and turn into the bold, bright and white Geminid meteor shower.
Why are the meteors called Geminids?
When tracing the paths of the fireballs backwards they all seem to originate from the Gemini constellation.
However, there isn’t any need to stare in the direction of this constellation at night as the meteors tend to appear randomly anywhere in the sky.
What can Brits expect next?
The Ursids meteor shower will be the final meteor shower of the year.
Taking place following the winter solstice on December 22 to 23 the astronomical display is one of the lesser showers of the year.
The name for this meteor shower comes from its radiant point which is located near the star Beta Ursae Minoris in the constellation Ursa Minor.
Meanwhile, the next full moon will be known as the Wolf Moon.
Gracing the night sky on January 2 and otherwise known as Old Moon, this spectacle will be at its brightest at 3.24am.
The moniker refers to the sound of wolves howling with hunger in America around this time of year.
Other full moons so far this year have also had unique names, such as: Worm Moon, Flower Moon, Pink Moon and Strawberry Moon.
This month’s full moon was known as the Cold Moon – 2017’s first and last supermoon.
More about meteor showers:
- Most meteor showers are caused by the Earth passing through debris from comets.
- Meteors fall to Earth during the day, but they are much harder to see.
- It’s more likely that a meteor will fall into the ocean than strike a human.
- The earliest record of the Perseids meteor shower is found in Chinese annals from 36 AD.
- The fastest meteoroids travel through the solar system at a speed of around 42 kilometres per second (26 miles per second).