How do I watch the Geminid meteor shower this weekend?

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ight-time sky-watchers can look forward to a celestial display of shooting stars on Sunday night, as the Earth passes through a cloud of cometary dust.

The Geminid meteor shower, which returns every December, is expected to peak some time during the night of December 13 and will be visible until the early morning of December 14.

An absent moon will ensure that the meteors, which are widely regarded as the most impressive of the year, stand out brightly as they streak across the sky, with as many as 70 an hour.

The Geminids originate from a rocky asteroid called 3200 Phaethon with a comet-like orbit, and were first observed in 1862.

The meteors, small pieces of interplanetary debris, appear to radiate from near the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini.

What is the Geminid meteor shower?

According to the Royal Museums Greenwich the Geminid meteor shower is one of the last of the year’s major showers, and can generally be relied on to put on a good display. 

Meteors are pieces of debris which enter our planet’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second, vaporising and causing the streaks of light we call meteors.

The meteors are very bright, moderately fast, and are unusual in being multi-coloured – mainly white, some yellow and a few green, red and blue. 

These colours are partly caused by the presence of traces of metals like sodium and calcium, the same effect that is used to make fireworks colourful. 

The shower has been known to produce over 100 meteors per hour at its peak, although light pollution and other factors mean that, in reality, the actual number visible is far less.

How can I see the Geminid shower?

To see the shower, observers should look upwards after 10pm UK time on Sunday, when the radiant will be high in the south-eastern sky, experts at the Royal Astronomical Society said.

The best views are always away from city lights, but with a clear sky even urban skywatchers should see at least a few meteors, they added.

You want to find a safe location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution. 

The meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky, so it is good to be in a wide-open space where you can scan the night sky with your eyes. 

The showers will continue to be visible until December 17.

Reporting by PA

Evening Standard – News