Don’t miss the December light show. Just look up in the sky.
The annual Geminid meteor shower — the most intense of the year — will peak Friday night and Saturday morning. The best viewing may be early Saturday, once the moon sets. Between 100 and 120 meteors are expected every hour at peak time.
“Theoretically, we could have like 120 an hour. If you’re not in a dark spot, you’d be lucky to see half that. It’s always better where there’s not city lights,” said Charles Paul, viewing coordinator for the Everglades Astronomical Society, a group of about 80 amateur astronomers based in the Naples area.
“They’ll be coming out of the sky in all different directions, but mostly from the west,” Paul said.
Scientists say the bright moon will interfere and reduce the number of visible meteors by half. That's why the best shot for viewing will be closer to dawn on Saturday, but stargazers won't have to wait until after midnight to see a light show. And they'll be a repeat performance Saturday night.
“There will be a bright moon most of the night. Just before dawn, look west Saturday morning, 3 or 4 in the morning after the moon sets.” Paul said. “Looking at meteor showers, it’s always best to wait until after 2 in the morning.”
The Geminids come from a small asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, which passes quite close to the sun. Its trail of dust and debris is what makes up the Geminids. Earth passes through this stream of debris every December.
“The Earth is passing through the tail of this old comet. It just peaks Saturday night,” Paul said. “It’s all naked-eye stuff. It’s shooting stars. That’s what they are, shooting stars.”
The meteor shower extends through Monday, but it is expected to peak about 1 a.m. Saturday. Although they can appear anywhere in the sky, Geminid meteors appear to shoot out of the constellation Gemini.