Last meteor shower of the year to light up the night sky

A person looks up at the night sky

The year 2021 will end with a light show as the Geminids meteor shower rains down from the darkness of night, starting Dec. 3.

The peak time to view the display is late Monday, Dec. 13 into the wee hours of Tuesday, Dec. 14. If you’re up at 2 a.m., this is probably the ideal time for a little meteor gazing, especially for people in Canada and the United States.

“The Geminids shower is an annual favourite with meteor colours ranging from white to blue and green. The best viewing spots are those away from ambient light, streets and building lights, for example,” says Assistant Professor Elaina Hyde of York University’s Faculty of Science.

A nearly full moon, called a waxing gibbous moon, may make seeing the meteors more difficult in the first part of the evening, but be patient. It may take 15 or 20 minutes for a stargazer’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, but once they are, there will be plenty of possible meteors to see – between 50 to 150 meteors per hour streaming through the sky.

“The Earth passes through a large cloud of dust and rocks every year left behind by the asteroid (or potential comet) 3200 Phaethon. The small bits of dust and rock reach speeds over 120,000 kilometres per hour and when they encounter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up leaving behind a long trail of light across the sky,” says Assistant Professor Jesse Rogerson of the Department of Science and Technology Studies in York’s Faculty of Science. “The motion of the Earth makes it appear as if these shooting stars are emanating from the constellation Gemini, though you can see them anywhere across the sky.”