Feeling a little adventurous and looking for a good time tonight?
If you’re the outdoorsy type, you might want to ponder setting the clock for an early-morning wake-up — like around 1:30 a.m. — and finding yourself a dark space to lie back and watch the night-time sky.
If some expected cloud cover isn’t too heavy, you won’t be disappointed.
According to EarthSky.org, tonight around 2 a.m. is the best time to catch this season’s Geminid metor shower, expected to pepper the night-time sky with between 50 and 120 meteors at its peak.
The Geminids tend to be bold, white and quick — and highly visible from all parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
Best of all, you don’t need to lug along any special equipment to view the shower.
Just find a dark, open space and bring a sleeping bag or a couple of blankets to keep warm. A lounge chair is a nice addition. Lie down in comfort, and look upward.
Focus on the constellation Gemini (the Twins). As a general rule, the higher the constellation climbs into our sky, the more meteors you’re likely to see.
Earthsky notes when you’re meteor-watching, it’s also good to bring along a buddy. The two of you can watch in different directions and when someone sees one, call out “meteor!” This technique will let you see more meteors than one person watching alone will see.
Be sure to give yourself at least an hour of observing time. It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark.
By the way, if you want to catch “earthgrazers” — those slow-moving, long-lasting meteors that travel horizontally across the sky — your best time for viewing is early evening.
You won’t see as many meteors, but if you look to the eastern horizon, you might get the odd spectacular show.
The annual December shower is caused when Earth crosses the orbital path of an object called 3200 Phaethon — a mysterious body that is sometimes referred to as a rock comet. The debris shed by 3200 Phaethon crashes into Earth’s upper atmosphere at some 80,000 miles (130,000 km) per hour, to vaporize as the colourful Geminid meteors.