For all you space buffs, many factors are falling in your favor Wednesday night if viewing the annual December Geminid meteor shower is on the agenda.
South Florida skies are forecast to remain clear and cool into Friday, the National Weather Service says.
The moon is waning. Last year’s supermoon cast extra brightness into the night sky, which diluted the visual impact of the Geminids, a particularly showy meteor shower.
“The Geminids will be the best shower this year,” Bill Cooke, of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said on the space administration’s website. “The thin, waning crescent moon won’t spoil the show.”
The shower will peak overnight Wednesday to Thursday, with rates around one per minute under good conditions, according to NASA.
Here are some tips to make the most of the meteor shower.
▪ When to look:
After 9 p.m. Wednesday and especially between 1 and 2 a.m. Thursday as the shower hits its peak, and through 4 a.m. if you’re a night owl or early riser.
▪ Where to look:
In the sky, natch. “Skywatching is easy. Just get away from bright lights and look up in any direction! Give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. Meteors appear all over the sky,” NASA said on its website. But some experts also suggest looking toward the south to give you an even better chance of spotting the bright streaks in the night sky.
▪ Go dark.
The bright artificial lights of the city screw up the celestial view so the darkest spot you can find is your best bet, like an unlit field. There’s the Everglades, of course, but be careful if you’re out in the swamp after dark to see the streaks in the sky. Also, consider heading to rural South Florida, including the Redland and Homestead agricultural districts. The beaches are another idea, but most of them are lit by surrounding areas.
▪ Go online.
OK, it’s not as fun watching natural phenomena on a computer screen, but if you can’t find a good dark place in South Florida despite the cooperative weather, NASA will stream the meteor shower live on its UStream after sunset from the Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.