Bright lights from tiny pebbles - how to watch Wednesday's peak meteor shower

The dazzling shooting stars are the space debris left behind in the wake of the barreling asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

"If you can see Orion and Gemini in the sky, you'll see some Geminids".

"Hold onto your eyepiece!" says Sky and Telescope, noting that Phaethon will be so bright that asteroid buffs can track it through a 3-inch telescope. "Much of the shower will tend to come from the east as the Earth rotates into the debris train of the asteroid Phaethon".

Named for the Gemini constellation, the Geminid showers are known for bright, colorful meteors.

This year's arrival of the Geminids and Phaethon is especially welcome because last year, a "supermoon" washed out the meteor shower.

This year is especially good because the moon will be a thin crescent, so moonlight should not interfere. As it approaches the sun, the asteroid heats up and fractures, sending dust and rock into space. Still, they produce a attractive light show called meteor showers when they heat up the air around them.

The Geminids are coming
Bright lights from tiny pebbles - how to watch Wednesday's peak meteor shower

"Depending on the time you observe and local light pollution, counts will vary", King said.

Just try to get away from those city and street lights. "Suggested gear includes a lawn chair, lots of warm clothing, blankets, cookies or fruit, and a warm, non-alcoholic beverage".

Folks across the north-central and northeastern USA will have to bundle up, as some of the coldest temperatures of the year are expected Wednesday night, AccuWeather said. But weather conditions could be better around the same time Wednesday morning.

Smaller numbers of meteors will be visible one or two days either side of the shower peak.

Astronomers think that this may be caused by Jupiter's gravity pulling the meteor closer to Earth. It is within this time window that stargazers will witness a shower that boasts anywhere between 20 to 120 meteors per hour.

  • Wendy Palmer