Got Geminids?

By Phil Plait | December 13, 2010 12:23 pm

Tonight is the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower, one of the better ones during the year. It doesn’t get as much publicity as the warmer-weather Perseids in August, or the sometimes spastically-stormy Leonids in November, but the Geminid shower is a solid, reliable one with upwards of 100 meteors per hour visible (though more like half that on average).

Discover Magazine has a nice article about them, and as usual I recommend reading my meteor shower observing advice… it was written for a different shower, but the general idea is the same. Bottom line: dress warmly, lie out in an area with lots of visible sky, and the best observing is after local midnight.

Have fun!


Comments (28)

  1. QuietDesperation

    Zing! POW! Ouch!

    Yeah, I got one. Dang. (rubs head)

  2. Aerimus

    Actually saw a wonderful meteor a couple of weeks ago on 285 in Atlanta heading home late one night. It was bright enough that I thought it was a helicopter at first.

    To bad my vacation doesn’t start for another week and a half. We’ll be going to my mom’s, out in the middle of nowhere in South Georgia. Wonderful dark skies. She always seems to get a treat during showers, at least, when the weather permits it.

  3. Stepped out to a clear and crisp Woodland Hills sky (we’re on the outskirts of Los Angeles – just over the hill from Malibu), and was greeted by a shooting star. I’ll be out tonight, when it cools down. 80° here today.

    Eat your hearts out!

  4. Angus

    Any thoughts on where to watch from Boulder? Flagstaff, perhaps?

  5. Robin

    Thin overcast now in north-east SC and the projected low tonight is 20F, so I’ll be digging out the cool weather gear and hoping for the best.

  6. Yeah!!! Southern hemisphere victory dance!!!
    I get to watch the geminids in shorts (if it doesn’t get cloudy this year, FSM wills it!)
    Ya tengo mi cerveza, el telescopio+cámara+piggyback, ahora necesito una silla reposera…

  7. NAW

    Oddly CNN was covering this the other day. I’ll step out for a bit, but got work in the morning so that hurts some.

  8. I managed to see a super-bright one in the eastern sky last night, around 10:15 CST. Nice bright fireball, traveled north-south just upwards from Orion. Very impressive! Hope to see more of those tonight!

  9. Mike

    I was out observing from my porch in Los Angeles last night, the first time I’d done so since moving here. Light pollution sucks but it was still dark enough to make out Andromeda through binoculars. Anyway, I saw one or two streaks across the sky and plan to be out again tonight in a slightly darker area to catch the show. Here’s to hoping that weather cooperates! It’s been warm here this week and fog/clouds (yes, clouds do happen in LA sometimes) foiled the leonids and perseids for me this year. C’mon geminids!

  10. Tribeca Mike

    Thanks for the info! I’m extremely jealous tonight of my friends who live in rural cloudless places.

  11. Ragutis

    This year has sucked for me, meteor-wise. I think every major shower coincided with clouds and/or rain. But (FINALLY!) it looks like I’ll get a clear viewing night!

    And potentially record low temperatures exacerbated by strong winds. Yay. 20-something in mid-December? Screw this, I’m moving to Florida… oh wait… CRAP!

    Oh well, nothing a thermos of Kahlua and cocoa can’t handle.

  12. Floyd

    #4: Drive as far away as you can from any towns, open up a lounge chair, and point it toward the Gemini constellation. Dress warmly. I have seen Geminids 30 miles from the Albuquerque area that way, but it was a very dark night, no clouds, and not much of a light dome.

  13. Zero degree low tonight with 20mph winds. No way, especially fighting a 1st quarter moon.

  14. Well, since I have a 5 degree low, I’ll go ahead and check it out. That is, if I can stay up until then.

  15. Chris

    Why does it seem like the good meteor showers are only when it’s freezing outside?

  16. Dennis

    Screw all of you warm weather viewers!! Lucky bastards. I live in Wisconsin and I’ll be laying in the snow dressed in as many sets of winter clothes as I can fit on myself. Thermometer currently reads 1.6 degrees. This better be the most spectacular meteor shower in the history of meteor showers.

  17. bad Jim

    I’m in Southern California, clear skies and a balmy 57 ºF, and in the last 10 minutes I counted 8 meteors, none terribly bright, all radiating from Gemini. I’m definitely looking forward to midnight.

  18. Ragutis

    Came in to catch the Daily Show repeat. Clear skies and decent viewing for my area. Saw a good dozen nice ones, but no “Wow”s. And there something blinking that’s driving me nuts. According to a few online star maps, there’s nothing interesting there, between M48 and Procyon. And I turn up bupkis on Heaven’s Above. I’ll go back out in a bit and take another gander.

  19. autumn

    I went out at two AM in north Florida and got a good show; it was worth getting bundled up for, as it’s currently 28 degrees F here. I actually was looking out as I drove home from work, and even though it was only eleven o’clock, and I was distracted, I saw two really outstanding meteors.
    In Florida, winter is the only time one can expect resonably clear skies. I sit outside watching cloudbanks every August, getting only the odd meteor through the tiny clear patch.

  20. Nigel Depledge

    Cloudy and intermittently rainy here.

  21. bad Jim

    Underwhelmed. Fewer now than in late evening, and none spectacular. Not up to the Leonids at their best.

  22. Nigel Depledge

    Autumn (19) said:

    it’s currently 28 degrees F here

    Erm … let’s see … that’s about -2 °C.

    We had a few days in the last couple of weeks where that was the high in the middle of the afternoon (some parts of the UK have had nighttime temps as low as -20 °C, which is a fair bit lower than normal). Can we have the Gulf Stream back again now please?

  23. Joe Wheelock

    I was able to observe the shower for a couple hours early this morning(00:15-2:15am CST)and here is my report: I saw an average of about 90 meteors per hour with many faint and swift meteors. I also observed a few fireballs of mag. -3 to -4. The brighter meteors were mostly yellowish in color. This was one of the best displays that I have seen in quite a while!

    Joe Wheelock

    McDonald Observatory, Texas

  24. I took a single photograph (copy on my blog) with a bridge camera. In a one minute exposure there are dozens of meteors. Saw four of them while the photograph was being taken. I get the impression that there are many more fading into the background noise. I’d never realised there are so many faint meteors for each naked eye one.

    This was at 4:30 AM from Southern England. Also it was cold.

  25. Bah, clouds tonight.

    But the best meteor shower I ever saw was the 1985 Geminids. There weren’t as many meteors as the good Leonids several years back, but they were bright, amazingly so, with persistent trails. One was the brightest meteor I’ve ever seen, a fireball that left a trail across the whole sky.

    That particular meteor was also the time I experienced the mysterious phenomenon of an associated sound. I soon figured out that it would have been far too high up for an immediately heard noise to have emanated from it, and I decided I’d associated a coincidental noise with the meteor. But I’ve since heard of other people having these experiences and people trying to find some coherent physical explanation for them, possibly involving radio waves making nearby metal objects vibrate, or something like that. Personally I expect it’s just a cognitive illusion, like I thought originally, but you never know.

  26. Jon Hanford


    “That particular meteor was also the time I experienced the mysterious phenomenon of an associated sound”

    You’re not alone….many(myself included) have heard them too! Check out this NASA page explaining the science behind “electrophonic meteor sounds”:

    (Don’t miss the links to other “meteor sounds” articles and observations at the bottom of the page.)

  27. Messier Tidy Upper

    Clouded out here sadly. The other night there was a spectacular lightning display – but no luck this year as far as the Geminids are concerned. Not for me anyhow. :-(

    Probably too late for this now, but I think this page :

    via ‘meteor showers online’ is a pretty handy summary and reference article incl. a radiant finder map if that’s handy for folks at all.

  28. Mean and Anomalous

    Cloudy in NorCal…only regular rain, unfortunately.


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