The Geminids aren’t expected to peak till tonight and yet last night they were definitely alive and kicking. In fact, I would rank last night’s display as one of the better (non-Leonid outburst) showers that I have ever seen. Makes me wonder if tonight will be even better or are the Geminids peaking early.
Tonight it is supposed to rain here in Tucson so I decided to make last night my dedicated Geminid watch night. Within about 2-3 minutes of stepping outside I had already seen 4 Geminids. Things were looking good. Between 8:08 and 10:26 UT (1:08 and 3:26 am local time) I counted 154 Geminids and 24 sporadics (really non-Geminids since I wasn’t keeping track of any of the other active showers) under a sky with a limiting magnitude of +6.1. The Geminids came in bunches. There were multiple occurrences of 3-4 Geminids visible within a span of 10-30 seconds. At the other extreme there were a few dry spells when no meteors were seen for about 4 minutes. The brightness of the Geminids also seemed to be patchy with 10-20 minutes of bright 0th to 2nd magnitude meteors followed by 10-20 minutes of only 3rd magnitude or fainter ones.
The best meteor of the night was not a Geminid but a nice -4 magnitude sporadic that flared a few times right in the middle of my view. Its motion was consistent with being a Sigma Hydrid, one of the lesser showers active last night.
The IMO’s Live ZHR graph showed the Geminids reaching a ZHR rate of ~110 meteor per hour last night.
The weather is expected to be bad for Tucson tonight so I doubt I’ll be able to watch. But for those of you under clear skies, the Geminids will surely put on a nice show. The best time to watch is between 10 pm and dawn. Though the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini (from the northeast between 10 pm and midnight, overhead between midnight and 4am and from the northwest from 4am till dawn) the meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky. Where you look isn’t as important as finding a comfortable position (reclining chairs are the best) with an unobstructed view free from lights, buildings and trees. Also remember it is cold out there and meteor watching involves lots of sitting still so dress even warmer than you would otherwise.