Tonight, the annual Geminid meteor shower will put the world’s Christmas lights to shame. One of the year’s biggest meteor showers, it’s expected to shine extra bright tonight, because the moon’s current phase will keep the sky free of glare. Now all you must do is hope for a clear night, and, if possible, get yourself to a rural area, where you could see as many as 100 shooting stars per hour.
And if that’s not enough for you greedy stargazers, it turns out there might be a bonus meteor shower, sparked by the comet Wirtanen, USA Today reports. Astronomers haven’t named this one yet, since it’s not a sure thing, but if it does occur, it could produce around 30 meteors per hour. These would be visible in the early evening, with the Geminids appearing later on and persisting till dawn. So basically, if this were a concert (a silent, free, totally nature-generated concert), the Geminids would be the headline act, and the Wirtanen meteror shower would be the opening band which may or may not actually play.
The night’s main event gets its name from the Gemini constellation, because the meteors seem to radiate from it. The celestial show will begin around twilight local time across North America and twinkle till dawn, with the most meteors falling in the hours after midnight. According to USA Today, the best regions for viewing the shower will be the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Plains and the interior Southeast — and the more rural the area, the better. Unfortunately, stargazers in the Pacific Northwest, California and southern Texas might be limited by clouds and rain.
Experts say that if you want to truly enjoy the show, you’ll need to really commit. That means getting outside, finding a spot away from light, and giving your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust to the darkness. You won’t need any special equipment — just your eyes and a healthy dose of patience. But if you’re stuck in a heavily-lit urban environment — or you just don’t feel like the braving the cold — you can watch a live stream, courtesy of NASA. The site even allows you to ask experts your burning meteor-related questions — and make sure your Geminid shower experience will be truly out of this world. (Sorry.)