The Geminids and the Ursids
Mid December brings us what is often considered the most incredible meteor shower of the year, The Geminids, the King of Meteor Showers!. Frequently, the Geminids produce 120 meteors per hour or more, sometimes much more! Several years ago, I was driving through northeast Texas on the night of the peak of the Geminids at around 2:00 AM and it didn’t matter where I looked, there were meteorS (emphasis on the ‘S’). The Geminids appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini.
This year the Geminids peak on the 13th and 14th of December. Unfortunately, those nights coincide with a full and Super Moon! That sadly means that if it is clear, we’ll only see the brightest of meteors and there can be many of them!
Fortunately for meteor aficionados, there is a lesser shower later in December called the Ursids. The peak coincides with the December Winter Solstice on December, 21 and the 22nd and they run generally from December 17 to December 25. There will be a second quarter moon that will wash out a few of the dimmer meteors but many should still be visible. The Ursids, unlike the Geminids, are normally far fewer in predicted numbers but a few very bright ones are known to be visible. The Ursids appear to radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor!
An interesting piece of trivia regarding the names of meteor showers: the “-ids” at the end of the name of each meteor shower (Perseids, Orionids, Leonids) is a Latin form that essentially means children of” so, the Geminids meteors are technically called, The Children Of Gemini!
As with most meteor showers, both the Geminids and the Ursids are best viewed at some point after midnight on the peak nights and usually are even better after 2:00 AM. Dress warmly and head out of the city light areas. The less light the better. Bring a blanket or chair to sit on and prepare for the celestial firework show!