The December Geminid meteor shower is considered to be one of the most satisfying of the annual meteor displays and the ‘strongest’ meteor shower of the year according to NASA.
Boasting a high number of shooting stars means it can usually be relied upon for a good display, as a whopping 140 – 150 can typically fall per hour. This year the shower is expected to peak on 14th December, making 13th and 14th December ideal times to look out for its meteors.
What is the Geminid meteor shower?
The Geminids is a meteor shower caused by the rocky asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock comet” orbit. This makes it one of the few major showers not to originate from a comet. Each year, the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by the asteroid as it orbits around the Sun. When the debris hits our planet’s atmosphere – at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second – they burn up, producing streaks of light. The streaks in the sky, known as meteors, can be caused by particles as small as a grain of sand.
The Geminids were first reported in 1862 and have been recognised as an annual phenomenon since then. But the source of the shower was unknown until 1983 when Phaethon was discovered.
The Geminids enter our atmosphere at around 35km/s, producing slower trails that make them relatively easy to photograph. The Geminid meteor’s trails typically appear off-white.
How to see the shower
The Geminids are very reliable, so it’s likely you’ll see some shooting stars if the sky is clear. The show starts early, around 9pm – earlier than most – so they’re ideal for young spotters. But to see the most intense shower, head out around 2am and you can catch activity until dawn. You don’t need any special equipment to see meteors. Make sure you wrap up warm and take something comfortable to lie on – it’s very cold outside in the Peak District so don’t stay out there too long!
Remember to stay as far away from artificial light as possible, and allow some time for your eyes to adjust to the dark.
Have fun and send in any photographs to our Facebook page, we’d love to see them 🙂
The last meteor display of 2021 is Ursids; this shower is forecast to fall between 17th and 26th December with its peak forecast between 22nd and 23rd December 2021. This shower is slightly less impressive than Geminids and Leonids as fewer than ten stars typically fall every hour.