(CNN) — The Geminid meteor shower is one of the most active and dependable displays of the year, according to the American Meteor Society. This year, the shower will peak on the evening of December 13 and 14, so hope for clear skies that will let you see a beautiful show of green fireballs.
Unfortunately, the meteor shower will have competition from a nearly full moon — but experts recommend that it’s still worth checking out. Due to the full moon, you can expect to see about 20 meteors streaking across the sky per hour rather than 60 or more.
This phenomenon was first recorded in 1862 and causes a show each December.
Although you can watch the shower in the late evening hours on Friday and Saturday, the early morning hours, like 2 a.m., are the best chance to see meteors no matter where you are in the world, according to predictions from EarthSky. To see when they will peak in your part of the world, check here.
Although the Geminid shower is known for its “shooting stars,” the number of meteors visible depends on the time and how dark it is.
Early evening meteors may be longer, with dramatic streaks that last several seconds. Later on, the meteors will present quicker streaks or leave trails of smoke that appear to glow.
The asteroid 3200 Phaethon is responsible for this meteor shower, which is unusual because comets usually create meteor showers with icy debris. Scientists have debated the very nature of what Phaethon is. The closely tracked near-Earth asteroid has been likened to comets, so it’s been called a “rock comet.”
Phaethon was discovered in October 1983 and named after the Greek myth about the son of Helios, the sun god, because it closely approaches our sun.
Phaethon orbits the sun closer than any other asteroid and takes 1.4 years to complete its orbit. The asteroid heats to about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit on its closest approach to the sun, which causes it to shed dusty debris.
These particles cause the meteor shower when they plunge into Earth’s atmosphere at 22 miles per second, vaporizing in the streaks we call “shooting stars.”
If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights that will obstruct your view. If you’re able to find an area unaffected by light pollution, meteors could be visible every couple of minutes from 10 p.m. until dawn.
Find an open area with a wide view of the sky, and don’t forget to bundle up. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look straight up. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness — without looking at your phone — so meteors are easier to spot.