The Geminid meteor shower has been happening for a week, but this weekend marks the best opportunity to see the dazzling sky show.
Do you want to see up to 100 shooting stars in the sky every hour? Well this weekend you can - provided the skies are clear.
The Geminid meteor shower is a spectacular nighttime sky spectacle that lasts around 10 days in December ever year - and this weekend is the climax of the show.
So wrap up warm, get yourself a hot flask of tea and head outside. Here's everything you need to know.
When is the best time to see them?
The meteor shower started on Sunday December 7, but things start to hot up this weekend - specifically December 13 and 14 - because the moon has started to wane.
You don’t tend to see very much in the early evening, but things start to get more exciting from around 10pm, with the best time usually between around 2am and 3am wherever you are.
Do I have to be anywhere special?
The meteor shower favours those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, but it can also be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.
How do I make sure I see them?
First of all look up at the sky to see if it’s a clear night. If it’s overcast, you won't see much.
Provided it’s clear, you should wrap up warm and head outside - use sleeping bags and hot water bottles if necessary - and spend at least 30 minutes outside getting used to the darkness.
Going somewhere with as little light pollution as possible is preferable, but that’s pretty tricky if you live in a city. Don’t worry, you’ll still see something if you don’t mind staying up very late.
Once you've settled on a spot, look up and try and take in as much of the sky as possible.
You don't need any binoculars or a telescope to see the showers - they will limit your view too much. Just stare generally at the sky and they should start to appear.
Don’t lose heart if you don’t see anything for a while - the meteors tend to come in spurts interspersed with lulls.
What causes the Geminids?
The Geminid meteor shower takes place every December as the Earth passes through a debris trail from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.
As the bits of debris from the asteroid crash through the Earth’s upper atmosphere they vaporise, turning into the colourful Geminid meteor shower.
Why is it called the Geminid meteor shower?
Because the meteors appear to come from the part of the sky associated with the constellation Gemini, although really it’s the 3200 Phaethon that causes them.
Has it always happened?
No. The first reports of the shower emerged in the mid-1800s, but there were only 10-20 meteors per hour.
Every time the three-mile wide asteroid 3200 Phaethon orbits the Sun, more bits of it break off.
It’s these bits that appear as the meteor shower when they collide with Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
Could one of the meteorites land and injure me?
In a word, no.
Although some of them look really bright, the Geminids will never make the ground - they’ll burn up as they pass through the atmosphere.