There is no meteor shower in 2018 that will light up the sky more brilliantly than December's Geminid meteor shower. Yes, there are showers that are arguably better because they have plenty of meteors and land in a warm month -- like the Perseids -- but there isn't a shower that can rival the number of meteors the Geminids will cast across the sky. For that reason, it's an absolute must-see for stargazers.
The Geminids will peak the night of Thursday, December 13 through the morning of Friday, December 14 with between 120 and 160 meteors per hour, according to Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. Despite the frigid temperatures you'll have to endure, the Geminids can put on a breathtaking show with its bright meteors flashing above up to twice per minute.
While the Geminids reach peak this week, the meteor shower is active in early December each year, when Earth passes through a trail of debris shed by a rocky space object named 3200 Phaethon, according to NASA. The dusty debris from the object burns up as it plummets through Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the spectacular meteor shower. The origin of 3200 Phaethon, however, isn't 100% clear.
"Phaethon’s nature is debated. It’s either a near-Earth asteroid or an extinct comet, sometimes called a rock comet," the space agency said in a blog post. "There is another object -- an Apollo asteroid named 2005 UD -- that is in a dynamically similar orbit to Phaethon, prompting speculation that the two were once part of a larger body that split apart or collided with another asteroid."