Cancel your plans, because this weekend we’re going hunting for meteors. Scientists say the biggest meteor shower of the year is set to occur on Saturday and Sunday, with up to a possible 150 meteors expected every hour. By my calculations that’s… yes, a lot of meteors, and the best chance you have of seeing actual “star wars” before the big movie hits next Friday. See what I did there?
Often referred to as the “King of Meteor Showers,” the Geminids are going to blaze through the night sky at an impressive rate, raining down into our atmosphere as if it’s going out of style. It’s a proper setup for the New Year, and a terrific way to spend a lazy weekend (assuming you can bear the cold weather). The forecast here in Southern California isn’t looking good, especially on Sunday, Dec. 13, when the Geminids are expected to peak.
The best view of this weekend’s show is expected to be most visible to those in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, but anyone around the globe will be able to stand in wonderment at the celestial show.
The Geminids got its reputation because of how unusual it is. Formed by the debris of comet 3200 Phaeton, Geminids is mostly comprised of good rock. Scientists originally believed Phaeton was a big asteroid due to its lack of ice. Eventually, however, researchers discovered that Phaeton lacked ice because of its proximity to the sun, so in essence it’s just a comet without an icy exterior.
In turn, the debris floating behind Phaeton is mostly just rock, which takes longer to break up when entering Earth’s atmosphere. That means when you look up toward the sky this weekend, the meteors will be more substantial and create longer arcs; they’re also slower, too. Don’t worry, we’re in no danger. It just means we’ll be in for a more impressive show.
All that said, forecasts aren’t favorable this weekend, especially across North America. I’d still recommend you chance it to see if you can spot anything.