This has been a great year for cosmic views. After admiring the Eta Aquariid and the Lyrids meteor showers, a supermoon, and a lunar eclipse just last month, it’s time to buckle up for the grand finale. The annual Geminid meteor shower is here again, set to light up skies across Australia this week. This spectacular display is expected to peak on Wednesday evening and early on Thursday morning, but if you’re lucky, you might also see some meteors tonight and early tomorrow morning.
Geminid meteor shower
The Geminids are debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, which the Earth passes through every year. Considered one of the most reliable annual showers, the Geminids peak during mid-December every year. You can spot the meteors from mid-evening onwards, so you don’t have to worry about setting an alarm for the wee hours of the morning.
A bright moon this year means that not as many meteors will be visible as usual, but you’re still in for a decent show. If you’re looking to take pictures with a dark sky, or simply enjoy the view without the moon, the best time to look up would be about one to two hours before moonrise.
During the peak, the moon will rise at:
- Melbourne – 1:01am AEST (December 15)
- Sydney – 12:29am AEDT (December 15)
- Brisbane – 11:12pm AEST (December 14)
- Adelaide – 12:52am ACDT (December 15)
- Perth – 11:50pm AWST (December 14)
If you don’t mind the moon, you can expect to see plenty of meteors when the radiant is high in the sky, which is usually around 2am. The radiant is the point in the sky where the meteors appear to come from. In this case, it’s the constellation Gemini. However, meteor showers are visible, not just from the radiant, but across the whole night sky. For specific details on the best time to view the meteor shower in your city, check out this website.
To get the most out of your viewing time, head to a dark spot that’s as far away from light pollution as possible, such as your local park. Your backyard or balcony should also be ok, as long as you have clear views of the night sky. Allow half an hour for your eyes to adjust, wear warm clothes, and sit down or lie down on something comfortable.
If you miss the meteors during the peak, don’t worry. The Geminid meteor shower is expected to continue until December 20 this year.