- By Maddy Molloy
- BBC News Climate & Science
The Geminids meteor shower, famous for its multi-colored streaks of light in the night sky, has amazed stargazers around the world.
Visible around the world, meteors can be seen with the naked eye as long as the sky is not too cloudy or affected by light pollution.
Under the right conditions, observers can spot dozens of meteors every hour.
NASA calls the Geminids “the best and most reliable annual meteor shower” of the year.
What actually causes this rain?
We see meteors when Earth crosses the paths of comets or asteroid debris. When that debris hits our planet’s atmosphere, it burns up, creating spectacular streaks of light.
The Geminids are triggered by celestial debris left behind by a rocky asteroid called 3200 Python.
According to Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and co-host of The Sky at Night, “shooting stars don’t really have anything to do with stars”. “It’s just these little bits of debris that burn,” he said.
Dr Aderin-Pocock said the meteor shower was caused by an asteroid and not a comet, which was “very interesting because asteroids are rocky” whereas comets are icy.
“Some of these shooting stars are colored because of the difference in elements within the particles,” he said.
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich states that colors include white, yellow, green, red and blue. The colors are partially due to the presence of traces of metals such as sodium and calcium in the litter.
The name Geminids comes from Gemini, the constellation from which these meteors originate.
“This meteor shower is a beautiful night sky phenomenon where many shooting stars appear to come from the same area of the sky,” said Dr Minjae Kim, research fellow in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Warwick.
How can you see Geminids?
Dr. Aderin-Pocock explained that the best way to see meteors is to look at the sky, adding, “You don’t really have to look at Gemini, you can see more if you do.”
“So if you see Orion, look a little to your left and you should see Gemini, which is where these shooting stars emerge,” Dr Aderyn-Pocock said.
You don’t need any special equipment to see the shower and it’s easy to see them with the naked eye.
As light pollution in cities can destroy vision, it is better to go to dark open spaces as much as possible.
The meteor shower reached its peak on Thursday night after the sighting had already been visible for a few days.
Don’t worry if you can’t see them during the peak of the Geminids, as the rains last for a few days, albeit in limited numbers.
Dr. Kim recommends downloading a stargazing app to know where to look.
“If you can find the Geminid constellation first, that’s a piece of cake to see the meteor shower,” he says.
Other tips Dr. Kim says include giving your eyes time to adjust to the dark and taking a friend with you.
BBC weather presenter Simon King said there were enough cloud breaks for people across the UK to spot the meteor shower on Thursday night.
“Friday night will be cloudy for most of England, with clear skies in eastern England.
“Saturday night isn’t great with cloudy skies across England, but Sunday night could be the best chance for many.
“At least clear skies are expected across England and Wales, particularly in the south and east.”
Are you expecting a meteor shower? Share your pictures of Geminid meteors in the following ways: