It's the most wonderful time of the year! But if you can't find a moment to take a brief break from all of the cookie swap baking, egg nog drinking, and last-minute shopping, you may just miss one of the best gifts of all. And this one comes completely free of charge.
Every December, Mother Nature blesses us with one heck of a meteor shower. Trust us, staring at outdoor Christmas lights pales into comparison to the breathtaking sight of Geminids lighting up the night sky.
It's the second weekend in a row that star watchers will be gifted an out-of-this-world treat, after Venus and Saturn "kissed" each other in an infrequent astronomical event last Saturday.
"The Geminids are pieces of debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon," NASA explains on its "Watch the Skies" blog. "Earth runs into Phaethon’s debris stream every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the direction of the constellation Gemini – hence the name 'Geminids.'"
Luckily for us humans, there's an entire weekend-long show to take in from down here on Earth this 2019. According to NASA, optimal viewing hours will occur from Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday. (Specifically, that's between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m., with peak viewing time around 2 a.m.) But don't stress if Friday isn't an ideal time for star gazing. You will be able to witness all of the magic again on Saturday, too.
One drawback of this year's show is that an almost full moon will partially obstruct your view of the spectacle. You can expect to see as many as 30 meteors per hour this year, whereas as many as 120 meteors per hour can be viewed in a clearer sky.
Here's how to find these celestial beauties when you head outdoors:
"Find the darkest place you can and give your eyes about 30 minutes to adapt to the dark. Avoid looking at your cell phone, as it will disrupt your night vision," NASA says. "Lie flat on your back and look straight up, taking in as much sky as possible. You should soon start to see Geminid meteors."
Once you spot one of the heavenly objects, follow its path backwards through the sky. It's likely you've spotted a Geminid if you wind up at the constellation Gemini. Just don't forget to bundle up, because baby it'll sure be cold outside.
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