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The Full Moon May Dull the Dazzle of this Year’s Geminid Meteor Shower—But You Can Still Catch a Glimpse

With just the right timing, stargazers could catch a few of the sparkling streaks

A Geminid meteor streaks through the sky. (Henry Lee via Flickr)
smithsonian.com

As far as meteor showers go, the annual Geminids are some of the best—with 120 meteors per hour or more at its peak. It's also popular for its timing: While many showers tend to peak in the middle of the night, the point from which the meteors tend to radiate—the Gemini constellation—rises over North America at the respectable hour of 10 to 10:30 P.M. local time, Bob King reports for Sky & Telescope.

Unfortunately, this year's shower has bad timing. It coincides with a full supermoon.

But the moon won't just wash out the sparkly streaks, it will be parked in the same part of the sky as the Gemini constellation. While eagle-eyed viewers might still be able to pick out a few fireballs, the extra-close full moon won’t make it easy, Joe Rao writes for Space.com.

“It’s not a great year this time around because [of] the moon,” Harold Henderson, director of the Lake Afton Public Observatory in Kansas tells Daniel Salazar for the Wichita Eagle. “But it’s not going to be a total, complete and total washout...They tend to be fairly bright. It’s just not going to be as good as it could be.”

For anyone still wanting to try and grab a glimpse of the Geminids tomorrow night, between two and four A.M. is the best time for meteor watching, King writes. And patient stargazers will eventually be rewarded, according to Rao. Next year's shower may have nearly perfect viewing conditions—assuming the clouds don't get in the way.

The Geminids’ bad timing this year won't leave dedicated stargazers entirely out in the cold—next week is the annual Ursid meteor shower. While the Ursids often fly under the radar in comparison to the flashier and more numerous Geminids, December’s second regular shower won’t have to compete as much with the moonlight, Salazar reports.

“It’s a dependable performer, pretty good from one year to the next,” Henderson tells Salazar. The Ursids will peak on December 21 and 22—just in time for some holiday stargazing.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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