The Best Ways to View the Geminid Meteor Shower & ‘Christmas Comet’

  • Dec 13, 2018

The Geminid Meteor Shower and ‘Christmas Comet’ are coming. Are you ready to see them?

The Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid Meteor Shower will peak on the mornings of December 13 and 14 this year. Although it will be a bit chilly at 2 AM in most places experiencing winter, it’ll be worth it for even novice star-gazers!

The cold is normally the reason most people miss the year’s best meteor shower. Although the summer Perseids meteor shower is more popular, the Geminids are almost always a better show.

If you’re going to brave the cold, do yourself a favor and get outside and away from light at least 20 minutes beforehand. This little slice of time will help your eyes adjust to the darkness so you can see the meteors better. You should also plan on being outdoors for an hour or so to get the full experience. That means layer up and don’t forget your gloves, hat, and a warm cup of hot chocolate!

You should expect a slower meteor experience. You will see about 60 to 120 bright yellow-white streaks per hour. Remember, they’ll look brighter if you can find a place without light pollution or clouds.

The best places to view will be across the central United States from southern Minnesota to eastern Montana. The four corners region will also enjoy some pretty clear skies. Folks in the Northwest will also have some pretty good viewing conditions. Unfortunately for those in Northeast, some cloud cover will mostly obstruct their view.

You can always get a good view of weather conditions including wind chill and satellite with our weather map, Sferic Maps.

You can learn more about how different organizations are using this tool to improve weather-related decision making by clicking the button below.

The ‘Christmas Comet’

We’ve all heard of Christmas trees, Christmas carols, and Christmas presents, but what about a ‘Christmas comet?’ Like Santa Claus also goes by St. Nick, the ‘Christmas Comet’ is also known by another name. Although, ‘Comet 46P/Wirtanen’ does sound as jolly.

On December 16, 2018, the ‘Christmas comet’ will be merry and bright as it passes us as one of the ten closest comet approaches to earth since 1950. This isn’t the first time this comet has passed us by, but it will be the closest it has been to earth in the past 400 years.

Zipping along at speeds faster than Santa’s sleigh (approximately 21,000 mph) the ‘Christmas comet’ will be closest on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to see. In fact, astronomers still aren’t sure if we’ll be able to see it with the naked eye come Sunday. You may have to get your telescope and binoculars out.

More About the Christmas ‘Comet’

American astronomer Carl Wirtanen discovered the ‘Christmas comet’ in January 1948. Comet 46P/Wirtanen orbits the sun every 5.4 years and is just one a of handful of comets that can sometimes be visible to the naked eye.

It’s important to note that you can see comet 46P/Wirtanen right now if you use a telescope or binoculars. If you take a look at the comet it’s a glowing green color. That’s because its coma contains cyanogen and diatomic carbon. These both glow green when ionised by sunlight.

If you get a picture or video of the meteor shower or ‘Christmas comet’ please share with us here on the blog or on our social media channels.