False-color image of a 2011 Geminid meteor, captured by a camera at New Mexico State University, operated by the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Ala. (Photo: NASA/MSFC/MEO)
The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight (Dec. 13) into the wee hours of Friday morning with 100 or more shooting stars per hour, according to Space.com.
With the moon entering its new phase, visibility of the meteors is expected to be high. In fact, early reports suggest much of the country will get a good view. Here's more from Space.com about visibility conditions in different areas around the country:
The best weather is expected over the eastern third of the nation, where a large and extensive zone of high pressure will be in control. Centered over the Tennessee valley, this "fair-weather" system will ridge north and east to central New England and south and west to eastern Texas. Most places near or underneath this dome of high pressure should enjoy a clear view of tonight's display of shooting stars.
The situation unfortunately becomes more problematic over the western United States, where a storm originating in the Pacific will have moved inland into western Arizona. This storm is likely to bring rain showers to much of the desert southwest.
Across the high-terrain areas of central Arizona, western New Mexico, southwest Colorado, southern Utah and central Nevada, anywhere from 1 to 8 inches of snow could fall overnight. Yet another Pacific storm coming onshore near the coast of Washington likely will spoil a view of the Geminids for the Pacific Northwest.
As for when is the best time to catch them, get ready to set your alarm clocks (or maybe you'll still be awake after the midnight showing of "The Hobbit"). The meteors are expected to start up around 10 p.m. but will reach their height between 2 and 3 a.m. (EST). Space.com says no special equipment beyond your own eyes is necessary.
If you're in an area with poor visibility, watch NASA's live stream here.
Space.com reported that skywatchers have cited already dazzling results from the shower that occurred last night as well. Frank Mellilo of Long Island, NY, said it was around 2:30 a.m. when he was observing and that he even witnessed an exploding meteor "with sparks at the end." Mellilo described the sight as "greenish and brighter than Venus!"
Tonight's shower could also produce never before seen asteroids as Earth could come into contact with debris from the Wirtanen comet, which it hasn't done before. This comet's debris alone could produce up to 30 meteors per hour, according to Space.com.
Watch this report about the meteor shower and the constellations you might be able to spot:
Editor's Note: If you end up taking any photos or time-lapsed videos of the shower, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.