If you’re a fan of stargazing, you’re in for a treat this weekend, as the ‘best meteor shower of the year’ is set to peak.
The Geminids Meteor Shower occurs each December as the Earth ploughs through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a rocky object named 3200 Phaethon.
And at its peak, there can be up to one or two meteors every hour, so there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see one.
The best part about the Geminids is that you can see it with the naked eye so there’s no need for an expensive telescope or camera to enjoy it.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Terry Mosley from the Irish Astronomical Association revealed the best time to see a shooting star this weekend.
He said: “It is the richest and best meteor shower of the year meaning there are more meteors per hour than any other shower.
“The other good thing about this particular show is that you get more hours of darkness than any other time of the year.
“Anyone will be able to see them from around 9pm right through until first dawn the next morning.”
And Terry said people should prepare properly if they plan on spending their Saturday and Sunday night outdoors.
“It can be pretty cold this time of year so if you’re out observing then you should wrap up warm and protect yourself against the elements.”
“If the skies are clear, the meteors appear to come from the eastern point in the early evening before moving toward a more westerly position toward early morning.
“But it doesn’t really matter where you choose to look because they are so frequent that you can easily spot one usually radiating from the constellation Gemini.
“People should direct their eyes to the clearest and darkest area in their vicinity.
“The best thing people can do if they would like to see the meteor shower with the best view is to go away from a big city or town. Get away from the street lights to somewhere that is dark enough.”
US Space Agency NASA said the event was one of the most reliable annual meteor showers of the year.
They said: “The Geminids produce a good number of meteors most years, but they’re made even better this year as the shower’s peak coincides with a nearly new moon. (Thus making for darker skies, with no moonlight to interfere with the fainter meteors.)
“The Geminids peak overnight on December 13th into the morning of the 14th, with some meteor activity visible in the days before and after. Viewing is good all night for the Northern Hemisphere, with activity peaking around 2 a.m. local time, and after midnight for viewers in the Southern Hemisphere.
For the best viewing, find a safe location away from bright city lights, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointing south and look up.
“Meteors can appear in any part of the sky, though they’ll appear to radiate from near the constellation Gemini. So here’s wishing you clear skies to catch some shooting stars.”
And if you miss the Geminids, thankfully you’ll have another chance to see shooting stars in December, thanks to the Ursids Meteor Shower.
This shower will peak on the evening of December 21, at which point there will be around 5-10 meteors per hour.