It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sure, we mean the holidays, but also the spectacular astronomical event known as the Geminid Meteor Shower. The annual astronomical display takes place as a “weird” (NASA’s technical term) space rock called 3200 Phaethon zips by Earth, leaving a trail of space dust and other debris in its wake to burn up in the atmosphere. The result is a brilliant display of shooting stars that light up the sky, which is set to peak between late Thursday and the pre-crack-of-dawn hours on Friday morning.
While the showers have occurred in mid-December every year since at least the 19th century, according to NASA, this year should be the best year ever with as many as 100 meteors per hour streaking across the sky.
Here’s how to watch, according to NASA:
- Head outside after the moon sets around 10:30 p.m. local time.
- Then, find the darkest place you can, and give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, which means not looking at your cell phone for 30 whole minutes, because it will mess up your night vision.
- As you go through your phone withdrawal, lie flat on your back and look straight up, taking in as much sky as possible.
- Then just wait for the nature’s laser light show to begin. NASA says the meteor shower should hit about 100 per hour at around 2 a.m., although that is for people in dark sky reserves or, you know, nature. Light from cities and even suburbs will dull the display a little.
The meteor shower is expected to be so (ahem) out of this world that Google celebrated it with an interactive Doodle, designed to give a little starry fun to those of who don’t want to lie around outside in the pre-dawn hours.