The Geminid meteor shower will reach its peak on December 13 and 14, 2016. Despite the bright supermoon falling on the same dates, the numerous and bright Geminids are still expected to provide the skywatchers with a spectacular show.
The Geminid meteor shower is the king of the meteor showers, capable of producing up to 120 multicolored meteors in only one hour at its peak. The shower originates from the 3200 Phaethon asteroid debris, first discovered in 1982. It occurs every year in a period between December 7 and 17. This year it will peak during the night of December 13 and morning of December 14.
About 100 meteors per hour, or more, will be visible from a dark location, at its maximum. In order to get the best viewing experience, the skywatchers are encouraged to observe the dark sky patches about 30 to 40° away from the radiant itself.
The Geminids are very bright and of intense colors. They reach velocities of about 35 km/s (22 miles/s), and, because of their medium to slow velocities, they often don't leave persistent trails. They can also be seen in the southern hemisphere, although only during the middle of the night, and at a reduced rate. The shower radiant is located at 07:33 (113) +32° in the northern Gemini, northwest of the Castor star, also known as Alpha Geminorum, at its maximum.
Video credit: Frost Science
Video credit: starryearth
The best visibility is expected between moonset and at dawn, from the locations at mid-northern latitudes down to the equator. Fairly high meteor rates are forecast for the coming weekend, and numerous fireballs are also expected in the period from December 11 to 14, despite the bright supermoon which may reduce the rates by at least 75%.
To emphasize the popularity of Geminids, NASA's scientists have invited the public to join a live Reddit Ask-Me-Anything event, set to host during December 12, from 02:00 CDT. Bill Cooke, Danielle Moser, and Rhiannon Blaauw, from NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, will answer any questions.
For those viewers who might not be so lucky with meteorological conditions, a meteor shower footage will also be broadcast live from 20:00 on December 13 until 06:00 on December 14 (CDT) on Marshall's Ustream account. The Slooh Community Observatory will also host a webcast for the Geminid meteor shower.
Featured image: A Geminid over Sussex, New Jersey, US, December 14, 2012. Image credit: Jason Jenkins (Flickr-CC)