One of the very best meteor showers in the night sky is the Geminids, which peaks Wednesday night- Thursday morning, Dec. 13-14. All this week, if skies are clear, you stand a very good chance at seeing some impressive meteors.

Moonlight won’t be a concern this year. The moon is an evening crescent all week, leading up to first quarter phase on December 15. The best viewing for meteors is late into the night anyway, and then the Moon will have set.  
 
The Geminid meteor shower is especially strong. With a wide open, clear, dark sky late at night you could see as many as 100 an hour, or more than one a minute. Many of the Geminid meteors are bright.

Their name refers to the constellation Gemini, from where they seem to radiate. Meteors may be seen all across the sky. Geminid meteors will appear short when see near the radiant, and crossing a long path elsewhere.

If you can trace the meteor back to the radiant, you can be sure is a true Geminid. You might see a meteor going in another direction; this is likely a stray meteor not connected with a known shower.

Gemini may be seen rising in the northeast early on mid-December evenings. The meteors may be seen at any time all night long. To see the most, you should wait till Gemini is high in the sky, around midnight or afterward. Gemini is just above Orion, to the left.

Unless you live far south, you will probably need to dress quite warm to stay out a while and see the Geminids. You should let your eyes adjust to the darkness first; this can be done from indoors, with the lights off. Lying on a deck chair will relieve neck strain. A large window may allow you to see some from the warmth of indoors, with the lights off, although not likely as many.

Remember, meteor watching takes patience. You may have to wait several minutes as you never know when to expect one.

Although often called shooting stars, meteors, of course, are not falling or shooting stars at all. They are actually bits of rock or dust from outer space, caught by the Earth's gravity and giving off light as they vaporize, falling through the upper atmosphere.    Let me know how many meteors you see and your impression.

P.S. With a strong meteor shower such as the Geminids, it's probably best that you don't close your eyes and make a wish, because you might miss the next one!

Keep looking up!
Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.