December's Geminid meteor shower expected to be one of the year's best

Skywatchers who have missed the other meteor showers that occurred in 2020 have another chance with the Geminid meteor shower underway. The Geminid meteor shower started on December 4, and at its peak, viewers can see more than 100 shooting stars per hour. Making the meteor shower even more intriguing is that you don't have to wake up before dawn to see the shower at its most active.

The American Meteor Society says the Geminids will provide "good activity before midnight as the constellation of Gemini is well-placed from 22:00 onward." The Gemini constellation is the area of the sky where the meteor shower appears to originate. Meteors can appear from almost anywhere in the nighttime sky but will typically be seen moving away from Gemini.

The meteor shower started on Friday, December 4, but will peak on Sunday, December 13, and Monday, December 14. At its peak, under ideal conditions, skywatchers may be able to see as many as 150 meteors per hour. This year could be particularly good for skywatchers as the moon will be very small in the sky, with December 14 being a new moon.

As with any sky watching, it's best to move to a dark area with little light pollution. Watchers can expect various meteor types, including a few fireballs, intensely colored streaks, and dimmer "shooting stars."

Anyone curious about the origins of the Geminid meteor shower, it's caused by the remnants of a "rock comet" known as 3200 Phaethon. Interestingly, 3200 Phaethon might be extinct. It's a comet that wandered through the inner solar system. While scientists aren't sure that the comet itself is still out there, the meteor shower left behind in its wake is one of the best of the year.