Geminid Meteor Shower 2017: What it is, when it's happening and where to watch it

Aris Folley

 

This week, stargazers will witness the peak of one of the year's best shooting star displays in the United States.

Known as the Geminid meteor shower, the celestial event occurs only once a year, and its peak easily makes it one of the most impressive showers on the calendar.

"With August's Perseids obscured by bright moonlight, the Geminids will be the best shower this year," Dr. Bill Cooke in NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said in a news release. "The thin, waning crescent moon won't spoil the show."

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According to Cook, the shower is expected to reach a peak of one celestial firework per minute from midnight to 4 a.m. ET on Dec. 13. The following day, Cook also reported good rates will be visible between 7:30 p.m. and dawn the morning of Dec. 14.

These "shooting stars" originate from the constellation Gemini, which is where the shower gets its name. The Geminids are reportedly spawned by pieces of debris from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Every year, Earth's orbit crosses paths with the asteroids and those particles incinerate in our planet's atmosphere, which creates a dazzling display that lights up the night sky.

The Phaethon is also reportedly set to fly its closest distance to our planet since its 1983 discovery.

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The Geminids will be visible to the naked eye all around the world, but the best view will be from the Northern Hemisphere. 

If you're worried about the cold weather and want to witness the display inside, you can view NASA's Geminids webcast from the Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, which will start around sunset at 5:40 p.m. ET on Dec. 13.