The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Peaks This Week

The Geminid meteor shower will be one of the best of the year if not the best. You don't want to miss this one.

geminid meteor shower 2021
PHoto by Kevin Key / Slworking via Getty Images

This year hasn't been the greatest for meteor showers. It wasn't a disaster, but many of the big meteor displays were marred by a full or nearly-full moon. 

With the full moon arriving on December 19, the Geminid meteor shower is going to have a similar obstacle, but it's not all bad news. The Geminid meteor shower will peak the night of December 13 into the morning of December 14. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office tells Thrillist that it has the ability to produce more than 100 meteors per hour when it peaks. Even lower estimates are promising an impressive display.

The moon will wash out many of the fainter Geminids early in the night, but the moon will set well before the morning, providing a big window to see the display unobstructed by the moon's light. "On the night of the peak, the moon will set around 2 am," Cooke says. "So, you'll have from 2 am to dawn to see the Geminids in all their glory. Normally, you can start seeing Geminids just a couple of hours after sunset."

How to See the Geminid Meteor Shower

Given Cooke's information on the moon, the best time to see the Geminids will be from around 2 am until dawn local time. Earlier in the night, you'll be able to see meteors, particularly any fireballs the shower produces. However, fainter meteors will not be visible. The best parts of the shower won't be visible until after 2 am. 

In addition to avoiding the moon's light, you'll want to avoid light from any nearby cities. Find a viewing position far from the light pollution of the city. That, too, will diminish the number of meteors you're able to spot. That can be tricky. Light pollution extends a surprising distance from brightly-lit cities. 

It's best to lean back so that you're in a position to see as much of the sky as possible. Geminid meteors, which stem from an asteroid instead of a comet like most meteor showers, can appear anywhere in the sky. So, the more of the sky you can see, the more meteors you're likely to see. 

While thee meteors can appear anywhere, each meteor shower has a radiant point from which the meteors appear to emanate (and from which the showers often take their name). The shooting stars of the Geminid meteor shower appear to come from the constellation Gemini in the west. You don't need to find the radiant necessarily, because meteors won't appear to cross that point, but to be streaking away from the radiant. 

It's definitely getting colder, and stargazing can seem a little less appealing this time of year, especially if you're in the north. Nonetheless, it's an impressive display, and it will be a long time before another meteor shower arrives that can compete with the might of the Geminids. 

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.