Say goodbye to 2016 in starry-eyed style with the Geminids.
The Geminid meteor shower is coming up, viewable in North America on the nights of December 13 and 14, and you won’t want to miss it.
It’s 2016’s final chance to catch a sight of plentiful shooting stars, and is even called the “best meteor shower of the year” by experts.
That said, the shower this year coincides with a December supermoon—meaning the whole night sky will already be lit up, and it will be somewhat more difficult to see the meteors. In previous years, up to 100 meteors an hour have been visible to the casual observer; this year, expect more around 40.
For optimal watching, choose a viewing location with minimal light pollution, and then point your gaze in the opposite direction of the moon. The Geminids originate near the Gemini constellation, in the northeastern part of the night sky near Orion’s belt, but will trail across the whole sky, peaking after midnight and before dawn.
The Geminid meteors—besides being prolific and “rich in fireballs,” as NASA puts it—are also a real mystery.
“The Geminids are my favorite because they defy explanation,” shares NASA astronomer Bill Cooke. That’s because the particles actually originate from a rocky asteroid, not an icy comet like the Orionids, Leonids, Taurids, and most other showers of shooting stars. They also leave behind at least five times more debris in their wake, a fact that continues to befuddle scientists.
You can learn more about the questions that remain from NASA.