Smoky Mountain Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower will peak in 2021 on the night of Monday, December 13th and 14th. The Geminids are a reliable shower for those who watch around 2 a.m. local time from a low light environment. This year, a waxing gibbous moon, half moon, will be above the horizon during peak time for viewing. But it’ll set shortly afterwards, leaving the sky dark for watching meteors. Thus the best time to watch for Geminid meteors in 2021 is likely before dawn – say, from around 3 a.m. to dawn – on the morning of December 14.

You can also try watching in moonlight. Geminid meteors tend to be bold, white and quick. The brightest ones will overcome the light of the moon. This shower favors Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, but it’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too. The curious rock comet called 3200 Phaethon is the Geminids’ parent body.

Most meteors in annual showers have comets as their sources. But not December’s Geminid meteors, whose source, known as 3200 Phaethon, is a strange hybrid of an asteroid and a comet. This “rock-comet” isn’t icy, like a comet is. But it’s known to brighten as it nears the sun, as comets do. And it has a tail. Scientists puzzle over 3200 Phaethon. How can a rocky asteroid leave behind debris that sparks a meteor shower? Where does its tail come from?

The HeySmokies astronomical society suggest viewing the meteor shower from a low light environment like Cades Cove.

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