CLEVELAND — A Geminid meteor streaks between peaks of the Seven Sisters rock formation early in 2018, in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The meteor display is known as the Geminid meteor shower because it appears to radiate from the constellation Gemini.
The Geminids meteor shower, known for colorful shooting stars, fireballs and long-lasting tails, is like an early holiday light show coming to the skies over Ohio. The shower, regarded as one of the year’s best, peaks late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Weather permitting, we may see as many as 30 meteors an hour.
The National Weather Service is currently predicting a partially sunny Friday, with a high in the mid-40s. A chance of rain will develop overnight, from Friday into Saturday, so sky gazers will want to go out early.
The best time to see the Geminids is around 2 a.m. local time. A nearly full moon is expected to wash out all but the brightest, but NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke says the show is still worth a trip outside to watch.
“It won’t be a total washout, because the Geminids have a lot of fireballs in them,” Cooke told Space.com.
The meteors fly quickly and could continue for a few days after the peak, so continue scanning the skies whenever you’re out at night.
Drat that moon. The Geminids are reliably the most prolific meteor shower of the year, producing up to 120 shooting stars an hour — typically outperforming the summertime favorite, the Perseids.
The first known report of the Geminid meteor shower was in 1833, when it was seen from a riverboat moved slowly on the Mississippi River. It’s grown in intensity over the centuries since as Jupiter’s gravity tugs particles from the source of the shower, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, closer to the Earth.
The meteor shower radiates from the bright constellation Gemini (the twins). In the Northern Hemisphere, look in the southwestern sky for the constellation Orion — it’s the one with the three stars that make up the hunter’s “belt” — and then look up and to the left to find Gemini, which is high in the southwestern sky.
But don’t look directly at Gemini — you’ll miss some of the amazing tails associated with this wintertime favorite. Instead, look slightly away from the constellation.
You’ll also want to find a dark sky to view the Geminids, and make sure you allow about half an hour for your eyes to adjust. You won’t need binoculars or telescopes. And dress warmly and bring along a blanket to stay cozy while you watch the meteors fly.
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