The Boldest And Biggest Meteor Shower Of The Year Will Be On Display Above Washington In December
Here in Washington, we’re pretty fortunate to have an extra dose of natural beauty everywhere we turn. From the wild, jagged edges of the Olympic Peninsula to our towering mountain ranges to the sweeping landscapes that lay in between, every corner of our state offers new panoramic sights to drink in! But there’s also something to be said for looking
up. One of the best, most brilliant meteor showers of the year – the Geminid meteor shower – will be peaking in Washington in December this year, and we can’t wait to experience it! Here’s how you can too:
The Geminid meteor shower is a fantastic celestial event that occurs at the end of every year, roughly between mid-November and mid-December.
The shower's name is a reference to the Gemini constellation, the direction from which the Geminids appear to originate (for those of you who are well-versed in navigating by the stars!).
This stunning show is unique because unlike other well-known meteor showers, like the Perseids and Aquarids, the Geminids are the result of the Earth passing through the trail of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
Quick astronomy lesson: while they're all planetary objects orbiting our sun, there's a big difference between asteroids, comets, and meteors. Asteroids are dense, rocky objects that orbit the Sun, most of which are found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter - also (theoretically) the type of cataclysmic event-creating object that extinguished the dinosaurs.
Comets, on the other hand, are made of ice and dust, and often have a tail when streaking through the night sky due to the sun vaporizing the ice and illuminating the dust. You might hear them called dirty snowballs. And meteors? These are super small pieces of an asteroid or comet, usually pebble-sized, often caused by cosmic body collisions in outer space.
In summary: shooting stars = meteors. Meteor showers = space pebbles flying at over 130,000 miles per hour. Although, if you've ever heard about Pluto (that's messed up, right?!), when it comes to all things astronomy, definitions are never black and white.
The Geminids first began appearing in the night sky back in the mid-1800s. However, since then, the number of meteors has quadrupled. On a clear night, it's possible to see over 120 meteors per hour!
What's more: they're bright, fast, and furious and tend to be vibrantly colored, which makes them even easier to spot in the night sky.
Since the Geminids are best seen from the Northern Hemisphere, Washington is the perfect place to view this epic meteor shower - no telescope needed! Just find the darkest area you can get to safely, lean back, and relax.
Pro Tip: Leave the cellphone at home or avoid looking at it while you're skygazing. This will keep your eyes finely tuned into the night sky and better able to see these magnificent shooting stars.
This year, the Geminids are predicted to peak in the wee hours of morning on December 14, likely around 2 a.m.
Bundle up, friends! It'll be chilly.
There's no particular direction you need to be looking to see the Geminids. They'll be all over the sky.
Some of the best places in Washington to view the Geminid meteor shower are places that are officially listed as dark sky parks or one of Washington's many observatory areas, such as Goldendale Observatory State Park.
As with all celestial events, weather and the lunar cycle both play a role. Cloudy or overcast night skies will make viewing difficult, as will a bright moon. But even if conditions aren't perfect, just knowing that you're experiencing the same event as people from the 19th-century is pretty fantastic!
Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, and many more likely all had the opportunity to witness this mesmerizing meteor shower. And this year, you can too!
Are you excited to check out the Geminid meteor shower in Washington this year? We can’t wait to see your photos and videos from this incredible event!
For some fabulous Washington state beauty that can be enjoyed by daylight, check out a few of the most beautiful places in the state on our
Washington bucket list.
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