The good news is you’ll be able to see it from almost anywhere in the Valley. The Geminid meteor shower, so named because it appears to emanate from the constellation Gemini, happens every December when the Earth’s orbit passes through an asteroid’s debris field.
Brian Skiff, an astronomer with Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, says the Geminids are also considered to be the “most reliable” because it offers more shooting stars than other meteor showers and its shooting stars tend to take longer to burn.
“That’s the one thing I can tell you about the Geminids,” he says. “From experience, the [meteors] leave a longer train behind them, so it’s not just a quick streak of light. There’s a trail behind each meteor that lasts for a second or two.”
At its peak, which happens this year on Monday, December 13, into early Tuesday, December 14, upward of 50 meteors per hour will streak across the night sky. It makes for an extraordinary sight each year.
If you’d like to check out all the astronomical action, here’s everything you’ll need to know about where the best times to see some shooting stars. So kick back in your front or back yard, check out some shooting stars, and don’t forget to make a wish.
When Do the Geminid Meteor Showers Take Place?
In 2021, the Geminids happen nightly through late December. They’ll peak on the evening of Monday, December 13, into the morning of Tuesday, December 14, with upward of 50 meteors per hour will streak through the sky.
So What’s Causing All These Meteors?
Like all meteor showers, the Geminids are caused by our planet’s orbit traveling through the debris trails from comets, asteroids, and other stellar objects. (In other words, the Earth colliding with crap they’ve left behind.) In this case, its rocks and minerals from 3200 Phaethon, a near-Earth asteroid orbiting the sun. In mid-December, our planet crosses its orbital path, plowing through its remnants like a car driving through a cloud of bugs.
Skiff says the largely mineral-based composition of the Geminid meteors is why they tend to burn a little longer in the atmosphere than with other showers.
"Most meteors are made from the leftover ice and rocks of comets and tend to melt much more quickly in the atmosphere," he says. "Since [3200 Phaeton] is more rocky, its remnants take longer to burn."