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Geminid Meteor Shower 2012: When and Where to Watch

The most reliable meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, is on its way. Will you try to watch in Altadena?

The Geminid meteor shower 2012, the final major meteor shower of every year and likely to be the best, peaks overnight Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, and you may be able to see a great show on either side of those dates.

If you liked the Perseids meteor shower 2012 in August, you should love this show. NASA reports that the Geminids are a relatively young meteor shower, with the first sightings occurring in the 1830s with rates of about 20 per hour.

Over the decades, the rates have increased, regularly spawning between 80 and 120 per hour at its peak on a clear evening.

How spectacular is it? Just take a look at this video of the Geminid meteor shower. You can also look at some spectacular photos of the Geminids.

Earthsky.org reports the Geminids peak might be around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13 and 14, because that’s when the shower’s radiant point is highest in the sky as seen around the world.

"With no moon to ruin the show, 2012 presents a most favorable year for watching the grand finale of the meteor showers," Earthsky reports. "Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on December 14."

Cloudy weather could hinder viewing in Altadena. Check out the 7-day forecast here.

The Geminid meteor shower is named after the constellation Gemini, which is located in roughly the same point of the night sky where the Geminid meteor shower appears to originate.

Geminids are pieces of debris from 3200 Phaethon, basically a rocky skeleton of a comet that lost most of its meat and skin—its outer covering of ice—after too many close encounters with the sun.

Tips for watching, from Earthsky.org:

Most important: a dark sky. To watch meteors, you need a dark sky.

Know your dates and times. Best viewing of the Geminids will probably be from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Dec. 14.

What to bring. You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: your back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. Consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing along the pathway of the Milky Way. Be sure to dress warmly enough.

Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable.

Your best bet is to go outside at the suggested time—and hope.

Where to Watch in Altadena:

Aside from your back yard, there are other local spots you can try. Remember to bundle up and stay warm!

You could try your luck at the Cobb Estate, Eaton Canyon, or some of the higher altitude neighborhoods in town. Traveling up Highway 2 into the Angeles National Forest would likely be the best local option.

According to the Dark Sky Finder website, Altadena is located right along the edge of the higher light pollution area created by the dense population of the metro Los Angeles area.

That means that while light pollution may be a problem when it comes to viewing the meteor shower, the nearby San Gabriel Mountains do mean that in favorable conditions Altadena residents have some of the best chances for good celestial viewing in the Los Angeles area.

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