Hot topics close

The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks Sunday and Monday

The Geminid meteor shower is one of the most active and dependable displays of the year. This year, the shower will peak on the evenings of December 13 and 14.
This phenomenon was first recorded in 1862 and causes a show each December.
Although the shower could be visible in the late evening hours on Sunday and Monday, around 2 a.m. is the best time to see meteors no matter where you are in the world, according to predictions from EarthSky. That's when the radiant point -- the point from which the meteors appear to radiate -- is highest in the sky. 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 the sky is. Fortunately, the moon will only be 1% full, according to AMS, so it will be easier to see the meteors streaking across the sky.
Jeff Bezos says this engine will take a woman to the moon for the first timeJeff Bezos says this engine will take a woman to the moon for the first time
The asteroid 3200 Phaethon is responsible for this meteor shower, which is unusual because it's usually comets, not asteroids, with icy debris that create meteor showers. 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.
Hayabusa2 mission lands the first subsurface asteroid sample on EarthHayabusa2 mission lands the first subsurface asteroid sample on Earth
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."
For the best viewing opportunity, drive to a location that isn't filled with bright city lights. 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.
The meteors will be visible around the world, but they will be more visible in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere, according to AMS. People living below the equator will have the best chances to see the shooting stars in the middle of the night, and even then, less of them will be visible compared to those in the Northern Hemisphere.
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.
If you're unable to see the shower from your location, NASA will broadcast a livestream.
Total solar eclipse
People in South America will be treated to the final total solar eclipse of 2020 on Monday.
During a total solar eclipse, the moon completely blocks the sun except for the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, to create a beautiful ring of light.
The path of totality for this eclipse will be visible to those from Saavedra, Chile, to Salina del Eje, Argentina. The eclipse should last for just over two minutes for those in this path, weather permitting.
If you're in the path, check to see the timing of the eclipse in your area. And don't forget to wear eclipse glasses when viewing the sun. It is unsafe to stare at the sun except during totality -- when the sun is entirely blocked by the moon.
Those outside of this path in Southern Chile and Argentina will see a partial solar eclipse.
NASA will livestream the view from Chile at 9:40 a.m. ET Monday -- so even if you aren't in South America, you can still see this dazzling sight.

This story was updated from a story originally published in December 2019.

Similar shots
This week's most popular shots