The best meteor shower of the year is about to grace our skies

By Australian Geographic December 3, 2019
Reading Time: < 1 Print this page
Missed the Geminids meteor shower last year? Well, mark this date and don’t miss out again!

ON 14–15 DECEMBER, the Geminids meteor shower will grace our skies with one of the most spectacular displays to be viewed from Earth this year.

The meteor shower will begin on Saturday, with the best viewing anytime after midnight and peak viewing around 5:40am (AEST) on Sunday, when more than 100 multi-coloured meteors will glide across the sky.

There will be a full moon during the shower, but astrophysicists suspect, given the abundance and brightness of the meteors, people will still see an average 20–40 meteors an hour.

Viewers do not need binoculars or a telescope to see the shower, you just need to give your eyes about 15–20 minutes to adjust to the night sky.

The Geminids meteor shower occurs at a similar time each year, when Earth passes through a cloud of debris from a parent asteroid, named 3200 Phaethon. 

Compared to other meteor showers, the Geminids is a relatively new phenomenon, observed for the first time only 150 years ago. This is because the orbit of the debris cloud (along with Phaethon) is rapidly shifting over time.

As its trajectory wobbles around the Sun, the centre of the Geminids orbit is moving closer to Earth with each year, which is why it has become more visible in the last century and a half.

Emerging out of the constellation Gemini (hence the name), the Geminids are generally very bright, and travel at a medium speed – perfect for viewing.

Track the Geminids here.