Geminid meteor shower: How to watch it this week

Last updated at 16:59
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What is the Geminid Meteor Shower?

One of the most dazzling meteor showers of the year is lighting up the sky this week.

The Geminid shooting stars are due to peak in the second week of December - on the night of 13 (going into 14) December.

What is the Geminid meteor shower?
A meteor from the Geminids meteor shower enters the Earth's atmosphereAFP
A meteor from the Geminids meteor shower enters the Earth's atmosphere

Meteors are small space rocks ranging from the size of a grain of sand to a pea that enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up, producing a bright streak of light.

Most meteors break off from comets, which are dirty "snowballs" mainly made of ice, but the Geminids are different.

The object they come from - the 3200 Phaethon - is more like an asteroid.

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What's the weather going to be like tonight?

As it orbits, the heat of the Sun causes surface material to crumble, before it tumbles off into space, leaving a trail of rocky debris behind it.

The Earth passes through this trail every single year as it orbits around the Sun, and we see them glow as the rock burns up in the Earth's atmosphere.

So they look a bit like a cloud of shooting stars.

How can I see them?
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How to watch the Geminid meteor shower (2015)

You don't need any special equipment to view the meteor shower.

Find a clear space away from street lights or the light coming from your house, as you want to be in the darkest place that you can. If you're in a big city, the light from the city will likely dazzle them too much so you probably won't be able to see the Geminids if you're here.

Give your eyes enough time to adjust to the dark and don't look at your phone, as the brightness from it will affect how your eyes have adjusted to the dark.

Then, look up! Maybe even lie on your back so you can see as much of the sky as possible.

Hopefully, with clear skies, you will be able to spot them as they blaze across the night sky.

If you're really lucky on 16 December, you might even spot a small, ghostly green patch in the constellation of Taurus, if you manage to find where that is. That is in fact Comet 46P/Wirtanen, which will be making its closest approach to Earth (7 million miles) for the next 20 years.