Geminid meteor shower 2019: when and where to see it in the UK

What is it, when is it and where can I see the Geminid meteor shower this year?

The Geminid meteor shower will peak 14-15 December between late evening and dawn

What is the Geminid meteor shower?

The Geminid meteor shower is the last of the year’s major showers, and can generally be relied on to put on a good display. Meteors are pieces of debris which enter our planet’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second, vaporising and causing the streaks of light we call meteors.

The meteors are very bright, moderately fast, and are unusual in being multi-coloured – mainly white, some yellow and a few green, red and blue. These colours are partly caused by the presence of traces of metals like sodium and calcium, the same effect that is used to make fireworks colourful. The shower has been known produce over 100 meteors per hour at its peak, although light pollution and other factors mean that in reality, the actual number visible is far less.

Geminids meteors appear to radiate from near the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini. However, the actual source of the shooting stars is a stream of debris left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon, making this one of the only major showers not to originate from a comet.

Find out the difference between an asteroid, a comet, a meteor, and a meteorite.


When is the Geminid meteor shower?

SHOWER NAME

DATE OF MAXIMUM

NORMAL LIMITS

PEAK RATE/HOUR

DESCRIPTION

Geminids

Dec 14-15

Dec 4-17

88

Bright meteors, few trains. Associated with asteroid 3200 Phaeton

Find out more about other meteors and meteorites around the year

How can I watch the Geminid meteor shower?

This year, the peak of the Geminids coincides with a waning gibbous Moon, which will make seeing fainter meteors harder than on a moonless night. You can look out for the shower from sunset as the radiant – the area of sky the meteors appear to originate from - is in the northern hemisphere. The peak time in London will be late evening of 14 December and early hours of the 15 December. However, due to the bright moonlight during this time, you may have more luck spotting meteors nearer the start of the shower in early December.

Hunting for meteors, like the rest of astronomy, is a waiting game, so it's best to bring a comfy chair to sit on and to wrap up warm as you could be outside for a while. They can be seen with the naked eye so there's no need for binoculars or a telescope, though you will need to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.

It is best not to look directly at the radiant as this can limit the number of meteors you see. Try instead to look just to the side in a dark area of sky and you will be more likely to catch sight of some meteors with long trails!

Where is best to watch the Geminid meteor shower?

For the best conditions, you want to find a safe location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution. The meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky, so it’s good to be in a wide open space where you can scan the night sky with your eyes. But if you trace the paths that the meteors take, they seem to originate from the Gemini constellation.

If you manage to get any pictures of the Geminid meteor shower then we'd love to see them. You can find us on Facebook or Twitter

Image of Gemini constellation

Geminid facts

  • Together with the Quadrantids, the Geminids are the only major meteor showers not originating from a comet.
  • The beautiful streaks we see in the night sky can actually be caused by particles as small as a grain of sand!
  • Geminids were first observed in 1862, much more recently than other showers such as the Perseids and Leonids.
  • The Geminids are thought to be intensifying every year.