GEMINIDS 2019, the best meteor shower of the year, was welcomed tonight by the US space agency NASA.
The Geminids are expected to peak tonight (December 14) after slowly building in intensity since the start of the month. Geminid meteors arrive each year around mid-December, casting as many as 120 shooting stars into the night skies.
The meteors are the result of Earth passing through the littered orbit of the Asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
Bits and pieces of space rock that have broken off from the asteroid slam into our planet at incredible speeds.
According to NASA, the meteors appear to stream towards Earth from the constellation Gemini – hence their name.
The Geminids are typically best seen between midnight and 4am each year, with the sweet spot around 2am.
Unfortunately, this year’s viewing will be hindered by the presence of a bright Waning Gibbous Moon.
Tonight, the Moon will be about 92 percent illuminated, which threatens to wash out the night skies.
But William Bryan from MSFC Meteoroid Environment Office believes you should still “go outside and see the Geminids” tonight.
The meteor expert predicts at least 30 meteors an hour will still crisscross the skies.
The meteor expert said: “With the holidays right around the corner, most of us are in gift-giving mode and one of our favourite gifts every December is the Geminid meteor shower.”
Mr Bryan added: “Under dark, clear skies, the Geminids can produce up to 120 meteors per hour.
“But this year, a bright, nearly Full Moon will hinder observations of the shower.
“Observers can hope to see up to 30 meteors per hour.”
Weather permitting, your best chance of catching a Geminid will be around 2am local time.
The Geminids will appear to radiate from a point high in the sky, near the constellation Gemini.
The radiant is the point in the sky from which meteor showers emerge and they higher it is, the more meteors are expected.
Geminids typically favour the Northern Hemisphere but are still visible south of the equator.
Mr Bryan said: “As the night progresses, the Geminid rate will increase.
“If you see a meteor, try to trace it backwards. If you end up in the constellation Gemini, there is a good chance you’ve seen a Geminid.
“The Geminids are best observed in the Northern Hemisphere, but no matter where you are in the world – except Antarctica – some Geminids will be visible.”
Meteor showers are best seen in pitch-black darkness, under a clear sky and with an unobstructed view of the horizon.
Just remember to give your eyes anywhere up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness and dress appropriately for the weather.
Mr Bryan said: “Avoid looking at your cell phone, as it will disrupt your night vision.
“Lie flat on your back and look straight up, taking in as much sky as possible.
“You should soon start to see Geminid meteors.”
One of our favourite gifts every December is the Geminid meteor shower