Hurtling through the skies at speeds of up to 70 km per second, meteors are pieces of debris that light up the sky, burning as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Geminid meteor shower, which shoots through UK skies every December is one of the most popular meteor showers, often appearing very bright and, sometimes, even multi-coloured.
The stunning display of shooting stars will peak this week on Monday, December 13 as 100 or more meteors are expected to streak across the sky, staying visible through the night into the early hours of Tuesday.
Here’s what you need to know about the Geminid meteor shower including the best time to catch it.
What is the Geminid meteor shower?
Considered one of the best meteor showers every year, the Geminid meteor showers are bright and fast.
Though they typically appear white, they can sometimes be yellow or green because of traces of metals like sodium and calcium, which is what makes fireworks colourful as well.
The Geminid showers are nearly 200 years old and take their name from the constellation Gemini, as they appear to stream away from the the bright cluster of stars.
What time is the Geminid meteor shower?
The meteor showers usually peak around 2am in the UK and are most visible at that time as the radiant point is at its highest, but you can first start seeing them as early as 9-10 pm.
The best way to see the showers is to find the Gemini constellation, which can be found in the South-Western sky in the Northern Hemisphere, to the left of the constellation Orion. In the Southern Hemisphere, you'll find it just below, to the lower right of Orion, hanging in the north-western sky.
For best results when looking at the meteor showers, you should look slightly away from Gemini so that you can catch the meteors with the longer tails as they flash past the sky.
How to watch the Geminids in the UK
There's no need for binoculars or a telescope to watch the Geminid meteor showers. Though you can see it with your naked eye, it's still best not to look directly at the bright showers as this can reduce the number of meteors that can you see.
So, it's best to look to the side in a dark area of the sky for a better chance of viewing the stunning display. However, the weather may not be on the side of stargazers according to the Met Office.
The forecast predicts "very strong wings in the north" and "blustery showers in the northwest" on Monday night, followed by "unsettled" weather of persistent rain Tuesday onwards.
For anyone unable to watch the shower physically, they can still catch the live stream event from NASA's, which begins at 2am UK time – as long as the weather cooperates.
When is the next meteor shower in the UK?
If you miss the Geminid shower, you will still have plenty of chances to catch other meteor showers. The next one is the Ursid showers, which will be visible between 17-26 December, and will peak on December 22.
The other meteor show in December is the Quadrantids showers, which will be visible from December 28. However, these will peak early next year from January 3 to 4, 2022.
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