The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, peaks overnight Dec. 13 until dawn on Dec. 14.
If you liked the Perseids meteor shower 2012 in August, you should love this show. NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sightings occurring in the 1830s with rates of about 20 per hour.
Over the decades the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.
Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.
The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.
Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin -- its outer covering of ice -- after too many close encounters with the sun.
Tips for watching, from Earthsky.org:
Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky away from city lights.
Know your dates and times. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from late evening tonight Thursday, Dec. 13 until dawn Friday, Dec. 14.
What to bring: You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.
Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.
Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time -- and hope.
Share your tips for photographing the showers, and tell us your favorite places in the area to sneak off to view the skies in the comments!
You might also be interested in reading:
Leonid Meteor Shower: When Will It Be Visible?
Shooting Stars to Light Up the Sky
Felix Baumgartner Lands Successfully Back on Planet Earth
Perseid Meteor Shower 2012 to Light Up the Sky
VIDEO: Venus Transit 2012 from Super Hi-Def NASA Camera
See 2012 Venus Transit Live
Liz Kennedy contributed to this article.