Heads up: Shooting stars over France tonight at Geminid peak
Good news for stargazers: Hundreds of meteors will be visible tonight - weather permitting - as the ‘bold, white and quick’ Geminid shower peaks between around 01:00 and 02:00
Hundreds of shooting stars may be visible from France tonight - from Sunday December 13 to Monday December 14 - weather conditions permitting, as the Geminid meteors peak in the early hours.
As always at this time of year, the Geminid meteor shower will become its most visible this evening.
It happens because the Earth passes by the meteor cloud at a speed of 30 km per second (100,000 kph), which makes the debris burst into flames when it enters the upper atmosphere, around 100km from the Earth’s surface.
Between 50-150 shooting stars per hour are expected to be visible tonight, especially as the shower peaks between around 01:00 and 02:00 - so very early morning on Monday December 14.
The shower peaks at around 01:00-02:00 because that is when the “radiant point” - the point in the sky from which the meteors seem to radiate - is highest in the sky.
Observers are advised that the meteors will be much brighter away from city lights and street lamps, and that you may have a better view if you turn towards the south - although the meteors will appear in all parts of the sky.
Stargazing website EarthSky says: “The meteors tend to be bold, white and quick.”
It also advises stargazers to “give yourself at least an hour of observing time” as “it takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark”.
The Geminid shower takes its name from the Gemini constellation, and the cloud is located near the Castor star, which is actually a group of stars within the “Twins” constellation. Castor is 52 light years away, and near another bright star, Pollux in Gemini.
The Geminids are also better seen from the Northern hemisphere, but can be visible from the Southern hemisphere too.
Soon after the meteor shower, the planet Venus will become visible in the east, near dawn.